The Value — and Comfort — of Silence

There are some days when so much talking has been done — so much hectic running, problem-solving, bargaining, sympathy, storytelling, explaining, restating, revising, assessing, interpreting, guiding, restraining, smiling, frowning — so much of everything that the only remedy for the knots of stress drawing shoulders together and creasing the brow is a good long space of silence. preview Doesn’t have to be absolutely quiet, although that’s nice for a while. Music in the background works nicely, too. Tonight, though, would have been a good night for a long walk with the dog with only the hush of wind sweeping over the snowy hillocks and houses. I, however, was extremely tired when I got home and opted for a lovely short nap instead. I think I ought to have gone for the walk after supper, maybe. Debating now whether it’s too late, or too cold. There is a comfort in being alone with one’s own thoughts. When you have kids, sometimes that quiet is dangerous. Children who are quiet are either asleep or up to something. Tonight, they are neither — since I was sick for those three days, they’re making up for lost time. It’s just frustrating to feel so  . . . drained. It’s not that I’m not appreciative of the bond we have, or that I have the luxury of time and space in which to spend time with my children. But as I recently read in another person’s blog, sometimes it’s hard to enjoy the moments with the family when exhaustion is in charge. It’s a different kind of exhaustion from the work of babies and toddlers and preschoolers, but it’s still there. And January doesn’t help either. Bloody long and cold month, with one more to go (albeit a few days shorter) before the hope of warmth returns. This is when people who can afford it start planning their spring break vacations away, in places hot and sunny with sandy beaches and lapping waters. Several of my students are paying into something called an S-Trip, which is a young-person-only, supervised holiday at a tropical resort, sans parents or teachers. I would enjoy planning a getaway with our children, taking them to Florida (the great Canadian rite of passage: March Break in Disneyworld!), but that prize remains out of reach as long as student debts remain. The other side of it is that I have done a tame version of Spring Break in Florida, and I found that coming back to dirty snow and damp cold was almost worse than not having left it at all.

IMG_5194When I was in university, my mother took myself and her mum to Marco Island for a week. I was grumpy, missing my husband of only few years, struggling with undiagnosed mental health issues as well as feeling hormonal, a bit bored at staying off the beaten path so we wouldn’t tire out my 80 year old Gran, and frustrated at having still another two years of school until I could graduate. I forgot to value the silence. And given our collective personality similarities and differences, there was a tension that built until my Gran got upset and stated that she would be happier at a hotel. We had a sit down and discussion, worked it out, got through, and it really was a nice holiday after all of that, but it’s always going to be one of those, “if I knew then what I know now” kind of deals. I ended up giving my Gran a pedicure, I remember that, and having lovely walks along the beaches as well as visiting family friends.

IMG_5196But it was over all too quickly, and flying away from the warmth, colour, palm trees and sunshine back to grey roads and frozen car doors was horrible. No wonder Snow Birds leave before the first snow and don’t come back until it’s all gone away. Still, I am grateful that my kids have learned to respect when I need quiet, for the most part. And hubby helps as well. Increasingly, they’re valuing time to themselves also, retreating to their own rooms to play without being a bother or making a worse mess than what already exists. Family patterns and behaviours are necessarily dynamic, shifting as we all age and move into different stages of our lives; perhaps we’ve entered a place where we’re all now capable and prone to introspection, even Bridget. Certainly the children have learned to value the fact that their rooms are valuable for activities that would be too noisy or crowded for the living room, and how to negotiate taking over our common space when they want more than one friend to stay overnight.

There are still some nights when I wish I had Holly Golightly’s pretty earplugs, but they’re getting fewer and farther in between.

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