It Might Get Loud

The Arnold Girls Dominating the Mall Play AreaIt’s Thanksgiving night. It’s 11:30, and I think it’s finally quiet.

One thing you can count on – a household with four little girls in it gets loud sometimes. Okay most of the time. Add in their three cousins (also girls) for a Thanksgiving night sleepover, and it’s a veritable cacophony. Everything makes noise – their toys, their TV shows, their joys, and their tears. I often joke that my job as a Dad (or “The Enforcer”, as my wife has dubbed me) is to find out who is crying, then find and punish whoever caused it.

We’re used to the din and don’t mind it much most days. After all, it’s what we signed up for when we had this brood. But it can be a bit much for the uninitiated. In restaurants, stores, doctor’s offices, churches, and fully booked airplanes, we’re a roaming wall of sound, assaulting the eardrums of everyone in our path.

The most flagrant noise ordinance violation we’ve ever committed was the time we took our 8 month-old twins on a red-eye flight from Seattle to Orlando. There were two aisles of seats, three across on each side. My wife and I each had a baby and were seated across the from one another, leaving two aisle seats wide open. The nice young couple who were scheduled to occupy those doomed locations explained to us that they had just been married, and were flying out for their honeymoon. Predictably, at least one of the little nippers was inconsolably screaming her head off the entire 6 hours we were aloft. The newlyweds were very nice and extremely patient with the whole situation, but I couldn’t apologize enough to those poor people.

We do try to keep the volume down, especially in public. But four is a lot of kids and even a little sound from each multiplies and carries. So we tend to eat out at loud places like Red Robin, go to animated movies at matinee times (when everyone there has a couple of talkative toddlers in tow), and generally avoid anyplace where people are expecting tranquility. Despite our best efforts, we end up harshing some folks’ mellow. Most are very gracious, but a few have taken the time to let us know just how annoying our presence is. So far, my all-time favorite is the lady who stopped my wife in Target on a weekday morning to let her know that our two year-old’s “Mommy said ‘no’ to me” tantrum was “disturbing the whole store”, and that she needed to “stop and attend to her needs.” I get it; we all know what a haven of peace and quiet Target on a Tuesday at ten usually is. And as all parents know, that kind of very non-specific, unsolicited parenting advice is oh so very helpful.

But noise isn’t all bad. The wailing of a newborn can be the sweetest sound you’ve ever heard. We strain to hear it during delivery – the incontrovertible proof that they are alive and well. And silence isn’t always golden. We’ve had quieter Thanksgivings, but I’ll take a noisy night over our former barren, empty nest any day.

I know I have to teach them to be courteous members of society, so I’ll keep trying to get them to contain themselves in public. I’ll employ ridiculous commands like “let’s use our inside voices.” I’ll keep tipping just a little extra at restaurants to make up for the 500 times per meal they forget to. And I’ll continue to be thankful for their beautiful noise.

By the way, if you ever make your way over to the Arnold Chick Ranch and Toddler Day Spa, you should know we don’t monitor the decibels quite as closely on site – I think home is the one place you should be able to let loose a little. So if you’re sound-sensitive, you might want to bring along your noise-canceling headphones. ‘Cause this place is full of life, and it might get loud.