I am sitting at my desk. It is mid-afternoon, the school day is over, the kids are home, and I am working on my laptop. Through the window, beyond the hedge, I can see a kid’s mouth. It is wide open. It looks like a muppet mouth in that when she opens it, it could be half a circle.
It would be funny if I couldn’t hear any sound. The visual is funny. But the audio is there and it is loud. It rivals the decibels of the other neighbour who is always exercising his lawn mower. You just can’t tune it out because it is so loud.
The child is not hurt. It is not that kind of cry. When you first have a baby doctors recommend that you learn what kind of cry your new larva is making. Is she hungry? Cold? Wet? Tired? I pretended I learned. I checked the same fifteen possibilities when the kid cried to try figure out what was wrong. It was like a 15 point inspection when you get your car’s oil changed. All the belts tightened, no leakage, plenty of fluids, well-tuned and you’re good to go. The one thing I did learn was what my little bird sounded like in a crowd of birds. The only mis-identification happened when it turned out to be her brother crying.
So the kid is screaming. She is looking around with big open eyes. I’m guessing she is scanning for an audience. She runs up and down the sidewalk — maybe this is creating a more efficient broadcast for all potential ears in the area.
Suddenly four kids appeared. They quickly assess the situation. They also know it is not dire, but the sound is there. It turns out she has dropped a lot of papers and the wind has blown them down the street. She thought this was a game the first two times it happened. By the third round even the kids got wise and no one wanted to pick up paper. They left them where they blew and she was screaming because she was not allowed on the street to retrieve them. Also, I’m guessing, she was mad that no one wanted to play with her.
Kids do not articulate their feelings. They do not look at a situation and say that they are “perturbed” that things didn’t go their way. Vocabulary is one thing that takes time to evolve into; from the start kids are emotional bundles of dynamite. They don’t need to explain the difference between mad, sad, glad, and bad. They wear their moods on their sleeves and often end up wiping it on your shoulder. They make whatever sound comes out of them and they make it as loud as they need to until the feeling goes away. It’s both impressive and annoying.
I noticed that the more I yell at my kids (to combat volume levels) the more they yell. Strangely, they learn by example. For a week I spoke very calmly and quietly and they had to really listen to hear what I was saying. It mostly worked. Then I lost patience and they stopped listening to me. Probably because they were too busy yelling and couldn’t hear me. You have to catch this opportunity at the right age, or start very young to instill this better habit in them.
The kid came banging on our door. She was yelling less, but still full of gusto. I opened the door and she quickly spat out that her papers were all over the street and no one picked them up. I told her that this was sad this happened, and that maybe she could ask her big brother to help her pick them up when it was safe. She nodded, and quietly left.
For the next short while it was quiet. I went back to my laptop refreshed. The kids collected the errant papers and decided to spruce up our driveway’s monotone slate using sidewalk chalk. And in that silence, the neighbour started up his lawn mower.