Friday, February 5, 2010

Volume Control

We all know the parents who take kids to the restaurant only to prevent other patrons from enjoying their dinners, right? Yes, you know the ones. Their child shrieks like a banshee for an hour and a half while they order drinks, appetizers, entrees and desserts. Sometimes they apologize to the waitress, sometimes they ignore the issue altogether. And then there are the parents who shyly sit in the corner eating their dinner, trying to no avail to calm their banshee-child, obviously embarrassed, but not enough to ask for a to-go box. Those are the parents one just feels bad for. "Oh, poor Mr and Mrs Smith, their baby must be SOOOOoooooo difficult!" "Oh my, they don't know how to control that child, do they!?"
But sometimes, the simple fact is that there isn't anything TO do about the screaming child. Are we supposed to bury our heads in the sand and pretend we don't exist until they turn 18 and move away from home? Perhaps. But it is much easier to endure the occasional night on the town with a shrieking infant whose only problem is that she has not yet discovered volume control along with everything else she is learning. New pitches, new volumes, new length of time. The fact that she has an opinion and is able to share it is fascinating to her and who am I to stifle that developmental milestone? I don't want my child to lose her individuality because I shushed her at a restaurant! Ninety percent of the time anyway the ambient sounds at a restaurant are so stifling to conversation that the shriek and squeal of the infant, no matter how pleasant or angry these sounds might be, will become a dull buzzing in the background. Other patrons may notice this specific noise, but for the most part, the cheering over the football game, or the loud reminiscing of the previous quarter's business over drinks and hot wings take control of the surroundings.
So, why do I still feel bad when my little girl decides to share with the world that she wants to laugh at her Daddy? Why is it that we feel embarrassed by the natural developmental noises our children make before they know that it is rude to be so loud in public, but the dinner we have with our boisterous boss isn't even on our radar? Has society continued to preach that parenthood is an inconvenience?
Remember the days when a woman wasn't "knocked up" or even "pregnant," but "with child" and hidden away for the next nine months? No? Well, I wasn't alive then either, but those days did exist. It was improper to speak of reproduction and childbearing. Children were to be seen and not heard even into the end of the last millennium. Even I was a victim of that sentiment and I am not yet 30.
The revolution has begun, however, with the renewed interest in what is natural - breastfeeding, talking children, "baby wearing" and public exhibition of pregnant bodies.
The time has come to embrace the beauty that is motherhood, fatherhood, womanhood, parenthood. My inner woman, my wild-woman, longs to reach out to others and scream "I have a baby, I have given birth to another life that grew inside mine!" I have stretch marks in places and directions I never thought possible. I think I have a road map from South Dakota to Detroit on my stomach, but what it really says is "I am a WOMAN. I am a MOTHER. I am BEAUTIFUL." My baby girl who talked through dinner and screamed from exhaustion tonight is symbolic of all things I love most about my womanhood - she is a testament to the love and faith and hope that life brings from day to day.
Snuggled up in her father's arms, finally sleeping, I realize I am grateful that she doesn't understand volume control. I am grateful that she is learning who she is and how to communicate. Some day, she will stand tall and proclaim "I am a WOMAN. I am a MOTHER. I. AM. BEAUTIFUL!" She might as well start now.


  1. I love this post!!! I have a 21 month old too, and we had about two weeks of ignoring him before he realized it wasnt getting him what he wanted, but man did we get some looks. Not looking forward to doing it again with the new one, but it's a right of passage for parents...that only other parents understand.