Photo: Tessa MW
When my sister and I were young it was always a pleasure to drive with my dad. He worked shift work, and wasn’t able to be with us 24/7- so when we were together it was always enjoyable. He was silly and kind, but most importantly, he played the AM radio loudly. Whatever song was playing, he was always game to “crank it up.” We sang along to Fleetwood Mac and Blondie. We wore our sunglasses at night and walked like an Egyptian. The three of us would ride squished together in “Beulah,” his beige Ford Ranger belting out Broken Wings and wondering what Bette Davies Eyes’ really looked like. It wasn’t just in the truck that the music flowed. When we accompanied him to his building he’d use our portable Fisher Price radio and microphone to play the crackling local station. Anytime I hear any 80’s song on the radio, pieces of my childhood come flowing back.
The fun ended whenever my mom arrived. We loved (and still love) her just as much, but the radio was instantly turned down. The volume was declared “unreasonably loud.” We were lucky if it wasn’t turned off altogether. In fact, we didn’t even have a t.v. in our living room because it would be too noisy and distracting. As we grew up, the music was always silenced whenever my dad was out of earshot. Coincidentally, we were gifted with walkmans and discmans early on, as mom discovered she wouldn’t have to fight with us about our music volume if we could just plop on our headphones and tune out. Years later I got my driver’s license and it was my turn to fly around town in my brown Ford Pinto named Percy (a 1979 model inherited from my Grandmother which thankfully never exploded.) I loved blasting Savage Garden from the only working speaker and cruising along our only main street. So one can imagine that it came as a great shock one day when I borrowed my mom’s car to drive my sister to dance. We hopped in and started the ignition and were jolted back in our seats by Shania Twain enthusiastically divulging that Man! She Felt Like A Woman, at top volume! Did our mother actually listen to music?
And I get it now. I finally get it. You didn’t hate music. You just loathed the relentless, non-stop sounds of motherhood. I am so sorry mom, for all of the times we pumped up the volume despite you asking us not to. I am sorry for all of the times we called you no fun. Now that I have young children running around a house with vaulted ceilings, Karma has struck. The noise never stops! I feel like I am in a terrible disco club from which I can never escape. Why do the kids need to listen to everything at top volume? Why do children’s songs need to be so repetitive and annoying. Why do I go to bed singing Baby Shark and The Finger Family? Why does Google Home obey children?
I can now grasp that you were in search of silence. Beautiful, elusive, soul healing silence. Even the word makes me want to shed tears. Amongst tantrums, fighting, whining, dancing, hissing, howling and screeching (my children believe they are jungle animals, they might not be wrong) there is little chance for quiet. On the one day a week I can pawn my littles off on our innocent, unsuspecting babysitter, I arrive early to pick up my daughter from school. I pull in the parent lot, turn off the car and sit. In silence. Golden silence. It is perhaps the most beautiful moment of my week. Those full seven minutes of bliss make me feel rejuvenated. Never before in my life have I craved the tranquility and peace that comes from the sound of nothing. So many people paint silence as awkward, boring and even unsettling (let’s be honest, silence in a house with small children….that actually is unsettling and rarely ends well.) But I know I can’t be alone in yearning for quiet. I’m learning that during the early parenting years, silence really is golden. No really, I would literally pay gold for silence. Just saying. So I apologize, mom. Unlike dad, you were stuck with us all the time. You didn’t get breaks. All of those times you were just looking for some peace, some calm in the storminess of parenting. You just needed silence. I get it now.
Natalie is an educator in St. Albert, Alberta. She is the mother of three incredible little girls under 6, and one evil cat. She is passionate about adventure travel, culture and running.