When you’re on a ship, you are constantly surrounded by noise. There are always clanks and creaks from people moving throughout the ship, but the biggest culprit is the ventilation. A lot of air moves throughout the ship for heating/cooling and just general circulation. You grow used to this sound over time until you don’t even notice it anymore. Then…it stops. You could be dead asleep, but when this happens, you instantly wake up with your heart pounding. This isn’t always a bad thing, but if you work in engineering like I did, you better start moving before your boss does. It’s incredible how loud the silence can be.
It’s amazing how well this translates to parenting. Over time, you grow used to the background noises of having children. There are always cars crashing together, children arguing, toys falling, and toilet lids slamming. After awhile, parents are able to form a filter of sorts where they can tune out the sounds that are harmless. They just fade into the background and become a part of your personal soundtrack.
Then…there’s silence. You could be in the kitchen making dinner. Halfway through cutting a carrot, you’ll look up and think, “it’s quiet…almost…too quiet,” and you’re in motion to find out what’s wrong. Maybe they decided to take a nap (incredibly unlikely). Maybe they decided to read quietly (more likely, but still unusual). The most probably scenario is that they’re up to no good.
This is where your son decides that it’s time to see how much stuff he can fit in the toilet bowl before flushing. This is where your daughter decides to explore the taste of toothpaste. This is where they make a secret pact to explore the vast reaches of mommy and daddy’s closet. They know what they are doing is wrong, so they decide to do it quietly. Little do they know this is the worst mistake they can make. If they just kept up a steady stream of argument, the parents would go on none the wiser. Instead, they decide to enter stealth mode and immediately set of every mental red flag that we have.
We’re even able to adjust our filters for each child. Our daughter is perfectly content reading a book to her dolls, so we will allow a small amount of silence from her. Our son it a different story. If he had a soundtrack, it would probably be performed by Stomp. There’s normally a force field of destructive noise emanating from his person. There are also no shelves too high for him or child-proof locks too tough for him. Therefore, if there are 2 consecutive seconds of silence from him, my wife and I are instantly on the move.
I’m just glad that there’s at least one way the military helped prepare me for fatherhood. How sensitive are your parental noise filters?