I have one child sleeping and another off with her father getting some groceries. The house is quiet. Which, as any parent knows, is rare. I don’t know that I really understood ‘quiet’ before I had children. Frankly, now that I have them, I’m not sure I understand how to handle ‘quiet’. Nonetheless, I find myself in a quiet house in this very moment. I savor it. I honor it. But then, I also take advantage of it. A moment to write a little bit. To listen. To think. To write a little more.
Silence, once there are kids, is a thing full of anticipation. It does not come without caveats and contingencies. There is the silence of a sleeping child, yes. But there is also a silence that falls over a child just before they scream. Before they decide that they need something, want something, lost something. The kind of silence that makes you jump and ask “where are the kids?!” The calm before the storm. The precursor to the meltdown. That is the loudest silence when children are around.
There is also the silence of learning. When a child slows down, gazes long and hard at something. When a little person that was vibrating and bursting with energy stops, stills, watches, waits…it is a beautiful kind of quiet. An organic, honest quiet that means something is happening. They are watching. They are thinking. They are making connections. Learning. Curiosity presents itself as quiet in children. That is the most cherished silence of parenthood for me.
Then, there is the silence of sleep. Oh, how treasured and wonderful to have a sleeping babe. The way a child can sink down deep into sleep. The way they contort their bodies to find just the right position. The way they finally succumb to the sandman and snuggle down into the sleep with a quiet breath. A sometimes alarmingly quiet stillness. It is enviable. It is sacred. The most silent of silences.
But the silence, the quiet, the stillness which I once cherished and loved now feels a little empty. For in moments like this, when I experience a quiet house, I do feel pressure to get things done. I often fill those moments with laundry or cleaning or work. But I also miss them– the noisemakers in my life. I miss their noise. I miss their buzzing and bubbling. I miss their shouts and cries. Even if I love the silence…there is still a part of me that misses the chaos. Just a little.
So it is to be a parent. To be in charge of life. To be present. To watch it grow and change…it is a loud thing to do. It is a commitment to noise. And if not to noise, to anticipated silence. It is meaningful. It is hallowed. And ultimately it is often the precursor to moments beyond my total understanding as a parent. My children surprise me. They surprise me with their silence. Most often though, I am surprised by how the silence for me brings with it a longing to hear it filled with their sounds. Laughter, talking, shouting, crying…whatever their sounds are, I love them. I love the silent moments. Love them dearly. As a parent, it’s true, you have to soak up the silence. But what joy, what memories…What treasure is found in the noise of childhood.