Monday, February 27th, 2012...9:12 pm

Motherhood Is Noise

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“I’m sorry I don’t know what you want,” I say, half soothing and half frustrated.

“I WANT A BAGEL!” Nora screams from the living room.

“I know what you want. I don’t know what Miles wants.”

“Oh.”

The toaster pops, I open the noisy drawer full of metal clanking on metal, grab a knife and spread the quiet and smooth cream cheese.

“Thank you,” she says.

And he just keeps crying. For I don’t know what.

I have a conversation with someone, anyone. Ken and I try to talk about the house plans. I try to take a phone call from a distressed friend. I try to catch up with a friend about work. Little voices interrupt.

“Look at this!”

“Hold on a minute, I’m talking to someone.”

Silence for 10 seconds.

“Watch this, Mommy!”

And so I watch. And lose my train of thought. Or I repeat my definition of interrupting and the reminder from the Berenstein Bears that interrupting isn’t good manners.

“Ok.”

His favorite place is her room. Her room strewn with princess paraphernalia. With earrings, necklaces, dresses and shoes. With dolls and their clothes, their tiny shoes and crowns. He crawls that way whenever he is set free. Like a moth toward the light, he hones in and tries to crawl as fast as he can to her favorite things. The things he’s not supposed to touch.

But then she spots him. She stands in his path and warns loudly, “No Miles! No baby boys allowed!”

And then she slams the door.

And pinches his fingers.

And he cries and cries even as I scoop him up and shoosh him and rock him and kiss his chubby chubby fingers.

On her bed, buried in her pillows, half dressed in her princess dress, she cries louder. Guilt? Jealousy? I don’t know.

“I’m sorry,” she finally says.

Maybe outside it is quieter, I always think. Maybe the wind and the birds and the sound of grass under my feet will calm the noises. Maybe the sun will shine quiet all over me, tune out the static, erase the constant chatter.

And it does for a while. We swing and swing and swing. We explore the yard, crawling and running over the grass, looking for sticks and leaves and bugs, climbing high and sliding down low.

We smile and the noise is laughter.

Nora opens the pages of a book and pretends to read to her brother even as he wiggles and squirms and clearly wants nothing to do with her version of Cinderella. Crawling around, Miles finds the day’s discarded cheerios, taps together the spoons scattered around the living room. He and Nora look at each other and laugh about some mysterious sibling joke and then she plants a loud and forceful kiss on his fluffy head.

For him the evening is rife with winding-down noises. It is filled with the sounds of roaring water from the bathtub spout, of screams and screeches from a baby who can’t get into the water fast enough, who can’t get his tiny hands wrapped around that one last bottle quickly enough, of super happy and agreeable squeals as his blanket is placed over him and the light turned off. And then he is quiet.

For her the evening is a cacophony of if…then statements. Of ploys and pleas and tacit manipulation. Of one more book, one more song, one more dance. One more.

They go to sleep. Their white noise machines send reminders of the noise out into the hallways, but they are quiet.

They sleep but the noise continues. The internal mom noise turns on, gets louder. Miles should be drinking milk and he should be giving up his bottle. Why does he have yet another cough and runny nose? Is he getting his molars? Was it a smart idea to take her off of her asthma medicine since the doctor had said to continue until May? When will Miles walk? What new books should I get for Nora? Is the laundry done? Do we have everything we need for tomorrow’s lunches? Am I ready for work?

“You worry too much,” Ken says.

I tell Ken to turn down the volume on the television; I can’t handle the noise anymore. Logging onto the computer, letting my mind wander, I sit and write about the noise and only then does it truly quiet. I write the noise here so it gets processed, so it doesn’t overwhelm me. So I can feel power over it.

And then it is quiet.

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