FAMILY & PARENTING

The Longer We Practice Social Distancing, The Louder My Kids Get

by Amber Leventry
Amber Leventry is a queer, nonbinary writer and advocate. They live in Vermont and have three kids, including twins and a transgender daughter. Amber’s writing appears in many publications including Romper, Grown and Flown, Longreads, The Temper, The Washington Post, and Parents Magazine. They are a staff writer for Scary Mommy and LittleThings. They also run Family Rhetoric by Amber Leventry, a Facebook page devoted to advocating for LGBTQIA+ families one story at a time. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

My kids have always been energetic and noisy, but holy wow, my kids are loud and getting exponentially louder with each day we’re stuck indoors.

I have three kids — a 9-year-old and twin 6-year-olds — but if you could only hear them, you would think I have 10 to 15 children. They are loud, and their voices and personalities fill and overflow from any space they occupy. Their volume levels are directly related to their need to be heard over the cacophony of noise that is created and perpetuated by each other. Even when joyous, they compete to be the loudest. They talk over and for one another.

They argue, sing, and scream in three separate tangents from multiple rooms — even when one is on the toilet, they will shout their opinions mid-poop. My kids never shut up, and just when I didn’t think they could get any louder, social distancing has shown me how wrong my thoughts were.

kids jumping on couch

I half-joke that my children are feral, but their lack of sophistication is not a result of something I did or didn’t do right as a parent. I have tried to train and manner the wild out of my children, but they can’t seem to grasp the concept that you don’t always need to yell. Today I prayed my 6-year-old son would hit puberty soon so that his high-pitched voice would drop a few octaves to save my eardrums. 

boy covering eyes

I am sure a time will come when my children stop telling me every part of their day and look to me to answer all of their questions; I am sure I will miss this time, but today is not that day. And it won’t be for the foreseeable future, because now that we (they) are home all of the time, there is no escaping the sounds of my children.

boy with camera

It’s as if the lack of talking to their friends has created a special quantity and quality of sound that gets louder by the minute. Or perhaps they have lost the ability to hold a thought. Their classrooms were great places to practice restraint, and now that they are no longer in school, they have given themselves permission to say what they want and when. I would be foolish to ask for silence. 

Even when watching a movie or playing video games, they shout over the TV or sound coming through their headphones to talk to each other or scream for snacks. Oh, and fun fact: Two of my children’s headphones recently cr*pped the bed on the same day, so now I get to hear two different episodes of Odd Squad coming out of their tablets while another child randomly shouts out the virtual prizes they won while playing a racing game. Even screen time is loud. But at least they are mostly still.

silly girl outside

When they get too crazy, I send them outside. But instead of their voices bouncing off interior walls, their shouts and shrills are hitting off every house in the neighborhood. I almost feel bad for my neighbors, but then I see my children run up and down our driveway, stopping only to hit each other with snow shovels, and I realize my neighbors probably feel bad for me, and I feel vindicated. 

girls in wagon

Thankfully, I live in a neighborhood that has other wild and loud children, so if nothing else, we all feel a sense of solidarity and relief when a child not our own screams as though being beheaded.

I know anxiety and fear is making everything worse. My kids are working through pent-up energy and a sense of frustration during this time. Playdates, school days, and extracurricular activities have vanished. We can’t even hit up the playground or bike park. My kids are at a loss, and it is coming out in loud and manic ways. 

child reading in bed

I am at a loss, too. I am trying to work and homeschool my kids. I am desperate to figure out a routine that allows for much-needed predictability while still being flexible enough to bend when sh*t hits the fan. I am on edge, and if I don’t take care of my bare-minimum needs each day (just trying to figure out when I can sneak in some work or a workout feels like a full-time job), then I get loud, too. I sigh and yell. I bang around the kitchen while making dinner and wonder if I will be able to sit through another meal listening to the sounds of my children not eating the food I cooked.

2 kids dancing

My kids are just being kids, and at times I think their noise is a way to get attention or change the tension in the room. I am sure they can sense my stress and are fighting to find some normalcy. Read a room, though, kids. I will work on my anxiety if you work on your noise. 

happy little girl

If any of us are going to survive the next few months, I need the decibels to decrease. I have a feeling we are in an endless loop very similar to the chicken and egg problem. Send noise-canceling headphones, please.