It is quiet, oh so quiet. The children are playing away quietly, happily. I am working away quietly and happily. And yet, it is a wet day during the school holidays and there are no screens in operation (save this one ).
The other days of this wettish July school holidays have not been like this. Some of the previous days of this holiday have witnessed conflict and collective volume of epic and unprecedented levels. Although I am grateful to be at home for the first school holiday in years, you may be surprised to know I have not always been joyful and grateful at the close of each day.
So, what marvellous feat of parenting have I wrought to bring about this miraculous state? Quite simply, I contracted laryngitis. For the last three days I have been unable to make myself heard, above a hoarse and ineffective rasp. It has been frustrating, irritating, funny and sadly instructive.
When you have laryngitis, it’s hard to say ‘I love you’. On the other hand, it’s also hard to say “Pick the damn thing up”, “Whose is this shirt in the middle of the floor?”, “Who left this on the sofa?”, “How many tiiiiiiimes?”, “Do you really need to…?”, and “For God’s SAAAAAKE!!!!”. Although this is in fact a loving household with a great deal of open physical and verbal affection, I’ll leave it to you to guess which form of expression is more common.
Interestingly with the exit of (my) verbal expression, a lot of the negativity has gone too. The sarcasm, the ‘tch’, and the eye roll. Communication by sign language requires definite eye contact which seems to increase compliance. Which is just as well, because it precludes the usual pointless repetition of requests and argument.
As I have become quieter the children have taken to whispering back. They think this is hilarious. But the upshot is less pointless noise.
We’ve still got our grumpy patches but they are reduced, and there do seem to be more overtly loving bits. Spontaneous cuddles are big. Overall life is calmer.
The implications are rather horrifying. I have to accept that I am the source of a significant amount of the negativity in our house. At the very least it seems clear that my reactions act as an accelerant on conflict and volume.
It makes sense that as a parent I’m going to the the one making smaller people do things they don’t want to do (be clean, be organised, share). So, I’ll naturally create situations which generate heat which will be exaggerated as routines fall away during the holidays. Also, my renewed SAHM status means I am bringing fresh standards to bear on the household which may not be universally welcome (although eventually I think the resulting order will be appreciated).
However the clear lesson from laryngitis is that I can avoid throwing verbal petrol on family hot spots. Conflagration is upsetting, negative, sad, and worst of all, avoidable.
Learning it is one thing. living it is quite another.