When I was growing up, my family’s house was pretty quiet: My sister is three years older than I, and we had no neighbor kids to add noise to the days before ten cable channels broadcast children’s shows 24-7.
By 2006, I’d given birth to four children within a four-year span. For them, togetherness is the norm—indeed, my twins have no idea what it is to have their own room. They see no reason why Mommy shouldn’t read Fancy Nancy Preps for the GREs to them while she’s on the throne.
I’m convinced stress on introverted parents presents a bigger problem than anyone acknowledges. If you read parenting magazines, you’d think every mom and dad is constantly ready for chipper, thoughtful conversation (“Why do we pay taxes? I’m glad you asked, kiddo, because I made these sock puppets just for this occasion!”)
Actually, I think it might be easier for introverts to raise big families than small ones. My uneducated theory is that a mom of one or two kids is their default playmate. With more than three kids, the parent becomes the administrator, and for those kids, there’s always someone more fun to play with than Mom.
Quiet moms can teach kids that it’s fun to think and they don’t need a crowd to be complete. It’s good for kids to see their parents reading or scrapbooking by themselves, and I encourage big families to create a corner, maybe behind a floor screen, that everybody acknowledges as a one-person-only zone.
Sometimes I’m just grateful for background noise without anyone demanding chatter. Scraping together coupons is so worth it to subscribe to XM Radio for the car. The kids listen so raptly to the Kids Place Live channel, they don’t pepper the air with the “Mom,” “Mom,” “Mom” that makes me crazy.
Incidentally, on Kids Place Live is where I heard Jonathan Coulton’s “The Princess Who Saved Herself,” a song about a much healthier, cooler role model for our daughters than plastic Disney princesses.
I also encourage my kids to play chess and other subdued games. I’m writing this and getting Mommy Time while the kids play at the no-cost Chess Knight at the Dyer-Schererville Library, which is from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. the last Monday of every month.
On a related note, a reader from Homewood, Ill., asks how parents can maintain calmness and serenity with little children in the house. “There’s so much on the Internet about Zen meditation how-tos,” she remarked, “but there’s so little about how to maintain that calmness with little children and babies.”
Leave your suggestions as a comment below, and maybe you’ll see your wisdom in an upcoming edition of The Times.