The tone in our home waffles between complete pandemonium and utter silence. Most days I long for somewhere smack dab in the middle but can we all agree that as humans we tend to swing the pendulum of our lives from one extreme to the other with just a quick blip in this place called ‘balance’ as we ride the wave to the far end of the spectrum. Again.
With four teenaged boys living on a single level home we can’t seem to sit in the place I long for. Fun and animated conversation, filled with deep intellectual moments all at a volume that is just below what I deem appropriate. Moments that are joyous and yet still. Calm and yet silly. For the record, none of these have ever happened in our home.
Rather it’s loud, bodies everywhere and conversation yelling atop one another to be sure we’re heard. It’s nerf bullets whizzing past heads as we’re trying to concentrate for just a second, and heaven forbid anyone could gather the troops for dinner in a wander around the house and find everyone sort of manner. Instead it’s like a bugle blast of a holler to ensure all boys gather round.
Dinner is loud. Just loud. It’s piled with quotes from favourite movies, accomplishments on the latest video games and the constant retelling of stories of one another that are sure to embarrass/rile up/start a brawl right there at the table.
There is so much laughing. There is so much arguing. There is just so much noise.
Until there isn’t.
There are so many times when silence befalls our little home and I sit for a moment and think yes! This is it! But silence only comes when all headphones are on, each one lost in their own world. I use to begrudge these moments. I couldn’t help but think – why can’t we meet in the middle? Why does it have to be chaotic and boisterous or deadly silent.
Because deadly silent means that everyone is in their own land. Headphones are on and each ones personal taste in music is blasting into their ears. Or their favourite youtuber is filling their mind with their view of the world. Or some podcast is breaking down current cultural events or pastors are sitting around a mic giving their take on who makes the best burgers.
I use to worry about this silent time. About everyone being in their own land. About each person choosing to block the other out. Because it gets silent in our home when we’ve all just had enough of each other. When the close living gets to be too much. When the lack of personal space just isn’t there. When that persons words starts to feel like a drum beating constantly in our brain, or the way they munch on crackers feels like fingernails on a chalk board or their very presence is just too much for right now.
I falsely believed that if my kids weren’t connecting at all moments of every day then they were disconnecting and that was bad. Until I looked at my own life and saw the ways that I recharge and found that if my kids recharge the same way – it’s nearly impossible for them to ever recharge in our home.
Thankfully I get the house to myself for many hours every single school day and I can embrace the silence and I can play my own music and I can think and pray and not be bombarded with anyone else’s presence. Some call this selfish. I call it sanity.
A bad reputation has come around the whole premise of having ‘me’ time. I disagree. I need (yes, need!) time alone to recharge, to gather my thoughts, to still my heart and to spend time in much needed prayer. I’m not talking about me time that involves expensive outings or abandoning children or choosing self above others. I’m talking about finding time in your day or week to just be still. Me time isn’t bad. Me time is rest for a weary soul. It isn’t spa time or shopping trips, for me it’s a calm and quiet time to do something I love. Read a book, write, more than a few minutes to pray.
It took me many years to learn that my teens need recharge time too and considering we are 6 people with 3 bedrooms, no one really gets the opportunity to just escape each other. Thus, headphones.
While I’m at home revelling in the quiet, they’re in the busy halls of their schools. While I have moments to regroup, they have on their best face and are working hard to please teachers and grow relationships and be ambassadors for Christ in their schools.
I’ve learned when they come home to give them the space that they need. To give them ‘me’ time. For one it’s time to write, for another its flopping on the couch and surfing their iTunes playlist, for another it’s hoops on their own without a brother correcting their shot, for many it’s getting lost in the pure entertainment of a screen.
Where I use to worry about the silence and the lack of connection, I’ve learned to embrace it and take the time to prepare myself for the crazy that will come when we all reintegrate into each others worlds.
As parents, I think it’s important that we learn how our children regroup. It may be with friends and doing something active. It may be alone time with mindless entertainment or music. It could be curling up on the couch with a book or simply falling asleep for a few minutes.
Our teens are growing and learning and changing and, while I’ve never been one to promote entitlement, I do believe that they need time to do a bit of what they want. Just like I do. Each in their own way. It doesn’t have to be hours and it doesn’t have to be selfish, if we teach them that it’s a time of resetting and being ready to come back to connection feeling recharged and able to connect again.
So while I still long for that middle ground of happy yet quiet – I’m thinking that just now with boys that are 13, 15, 16 and 17 – that’s probably expecting a bit much.
My standards have been lowered. They are now more along the lines of everyone being kind, everyone getting enough food and we all simply live to survive one day at a time together.
I’m not sure you’ll find that on an inspirational quote poster on pinterest but we celebrate regularly that we’ve made it through another day. It’s in the little things, right?