My house is noisy. My children whoop with squeals of delight when they jump on the trampoline. They scrap like cats when they’re fighting over a toy. They scream excitedly at each other as they splash about in the pool, as though they are both geriatrics needing hearing aids. But my daughters aren’t the only culprits of noise pollution in our quiet neighbourhood; when it’s time for dinner I holler out the window, “Come and set the table for dinner please”. They ignore me and I yell even louder. They dive under the pool water pretending they can’t hear me, and when they bob up for air I shout their names like a fishwife to get their attention. They still ignore me, as though my ranting is insignificant white noise.
But I’m taking a new strategy as of today. This morning, I stood silently in front of them and they both looked up at me with rapt attention. I could see them thinking, Why is Mummy leering over us silently? Normally she’s nagging us about what we want for breakfast. You see, usually our mornings start this like:
“Girls, what would you like for breakfast?” I ask.
“Sophea, Jasmine, what do you want for breakfast?”
“Dunno,” says one.
“I’m not hungry,” says the other.
“We have to get to school, “ I say. “You need to eat now or you’ll be hungry later.”
“So what do you want breakfast?” I say.
The other looks at me blankly.
“If you don’t answer me you won’t get any breakfast.”
And so goes it goes, with me repeating myself like a toy parrot stuck on replay.
But this morning I put a stop to Groundhog Day, no thanks to any clever strategy on my part, but because I lost my voice. Perhaps I wore out my voice box with my daily shrieking at the kids to get dressed for school and to make their beds. Anyway, a game of charades ensued, with me pointing, mimicking and flapping my hands about. They got it! Better still, they answered me immediately. “Banana milkshake please Mummy.”
And off I went to make a banana milkshake. It was that easy. It was a breakthrough.
The secret is this – it was all about the quietness, the feeling that they’d miss out on something if they didn’t pay attention. After all, a whisper is more intriguing than a booming voice.
I even tried the technique on my dog. I’m constantly yelling at him to stop barking every time someone walks past our gate. This morning, I clapped my hands instead. He stopped, cocked his head, and ceased barking. Perhaps he was so shocked at my sudden dignified behaviour that he simply forgot why he was barking. Come to think of it, that might have been the case with my daughters and our silent milkshake conversation.
Regardless, from now on I’m going to try the art of quiet parenting. The power is in the shock, in pulling out a wild card of quietness occasionally to make a bigger impact. I’m going to keep practicing it until the novelty wears off, then I’ll hit my girls with an unexpected holler like good old times.