Dear kids, I can hear you, but sometimes the answer is still 'no'
Posted May 17
The fabric of my life is made of days like today.
Days like today have highs and lows. They are a blur of sun and rain. They are punctuated by moments of me saying "yes," and moments of me saying "no" — and I know what happens when I say no. What follows is a cacophony of wails and screams, a tsunami of noise that carries itself with the force of a wall, so you’d better take cover.
But let’s back up for a minute.
There are a few things you should know about me. My eyesight is pretty poor, so my other senses are guiltily trying to make up for it. I startle easily. I can detect an odor from across the room, and chances are the smell is giving me a headache. I love the taste of dark, dark chocolate and I can be debilitatingly ticklish.
I know, I sound like an awfully high-maintenance whiner — and that’s just the beginning. I get migraines sometimes, and the light hits my eyes like daggers. I like to hide in my room at least once a day so I can be alone. When I was a child, I couldn’t stand to wear certain types of fabric or let the tag of my shirts scratch my neck. My frustration over fabric and scratchy tags brought me to tears fairly often as a kid, but I can only imagine now how my responses then made my mother feel.
I once came across an article that described qualities of a highly sensitive person and I identified with almost all of the qualifications. And recently, I read an article about misophonia and decided I have that, too.
For my birthday, I asked my husband for noise-canceling headphones so I could make dinner in peace, instead of listening to kids fighting, kids asking for treats, kids yelling at me when I say no because dinner is cooking and kids screaming or banging spoons on the table for fun.
I put the headphones on and suddenly the world is quiet. I can hear sounds, but my kids don’t know that, so they give up easily after they’ve asked me for another piece of gum and I say no. There is no point in arguing with mom when she has on her headphones. The other sounds of banging spoons and glee are muted to a tolerable decibel, at least to the point where I do not feel like I am about to lose my mind, and all is well.
So maybe I am a highly sensitive person and maybe I do have misophonia, but, really, who isn’t? Who doesn’t mind hearing someone smack their gum or chew with their mouth open? Who couldn’t use a minute alone, once in awhile? Who doesn’t jump out of their skin when they hear a loud noise? Who doesn’t find change difficult?
My kids seem to amplify my pre-existing condition.
But still, the other night, as I chopped onions and listened to my headphones, I felt a little guilty. I was putting up a wall, isolating myself from the moments of which my life is made. Because, there are bad sounds, but there are good sounds, too.
On another night, I heard whistling. Then the kids were all hungry, so they picked on each other while they impatiently waited for dinner. I heard cars pass by on the street and I heard my daughter talk about her ideas for the school Invention Convention. I heard the sound of my husband setting the table after he told me to take a break.
Earlier, I heard the crack of my son’s baseball bat as it connected with the ball in his T-ball game. I heard the wind rustle through the trees. I heard my youngest child tell me he loved me the most, and the sound his lips make when they kiss my skin.
These are the moments that make up the fabric of my days — they are loud and soft, startling and sweet. Even after another "no," as the tsunami of sound is heading toward my head, would I change anything?
No, not really. But sometimes it’s nice to turn the volume down a little.
Amy Choate-Nielsen is a full-time mom and part-time writer. She spends her days at the park and her nights at the computer. She writes about family history and her quest to understand life while learning about her deceased grandmother Fleeta.