It is just after 7:30 AM when the “banging” begins. It doesn’t last long. In fact, after three or four seconds it stops, and my house falls silent again. But that banging … it lasts just long enough to upset me. To anger me. To piss me off.
Because “the banging” isn’t just some random sound. It isn’t someone stomping, or a car backfiring outside. It is the sound of my neighbours’ fist pounding against our paper thin walls.
It is their instinctive, visceral, and rude-ass response to my daughters running, living, laughing, and just being children.
You see, my husband, daughters, and I live in an apartment in the city. And while we have a slew of neighbours all round us — quiet ones and loud ones— our apartment only shares walls with one other neighbour: our downstairs neighbours.
Of course, this is good news. At least, in a sense. It means their complaints are limited to only us and the things we do — as are our’s. Unfortunately, they complain about everything and anything my daughters do: the time they wake up, where they play when they wake up, and what they do while they are awake.
Singing is frowned upon. Dancing is frowned upon. Walking is frowned upon. Running and jumping are definitely frowned upon.
Their drum-playing pisses them off. Their play vacuum pisses them off. Their dolly’s strollers pisses them off. Even the sound of their LEGO’s pisses them off.
That said, I am (somewhat) empathetic. We spent six years living below a 6-year-old turned tween, and I know how frustrating it can be. I know how obnoxious it can be. As such, we have done some things to help deaden the sound. We have area rugs and throw rugs; we wear socks, or slippers socks; and we enforce a strict “no shoe” policy on ourselves and our guests. Dancing, jumping, and running are activities confined to carpeted areas only.
But unless I tell my daughters to stop living — unless I keep them from playing and simply being — there isn’t much I can do, because I don’t want to stifle them. And I sure as hell do not want to discipline them for merely “having fun.”
For doing all the normal things a toddler and her big sister can, and should, do.
Because, the truth of the matter is, childhood is LOUD. It is noisy and boisterous, lively and energetic. And while there are times when my daughters noise levels are, perhaps, a bit “excessive” — while there are times I wish they would calm down or quiet themselves, at least for a bit — their loudness is a reflection of their growing personality. It is proof they are living life and enjoying it. It shows exactly how excited, joyful, and enthusiastic they can be, and — at the end of the day — their loudness is a sign of happiness.
Innocent, carefree, unapologetic happiness.
So while I am sorry that my daughters every footfall wakes you at 6 AM every Saturday, and that our walls are paper thin, our floorboards unforgiving, and the soundproofing is pitifully non-existent … I am not sorry that my daughters dance every morning. I am not sorry that they sing in the shower (that WE sing in the shower) every evening. And I will not apologise for them laughing, their occasional screaming, their running, or for their playing — because they are children. Young, free spirited children, just like you once were. And I want to give them the best childhood possible.
My ultimate concern is for their happiness, not your hangover.
Besides, someday that innocence will be gone. Their joy will be lessened, and the “loudness” will cease. And on those days — when they are both grown and my house is empty, silent, and still — I want to remember the games we played, the songs we sung, the dance parties we had, and the memories we made. Not the ones we didn’t.
I don’t want to look back and regret the moments I shut down or shushed or stopped stopped, because they aren’t a disturbance; they are children.
My happy, bubbly, wild little girls, who are living every beautiful moment as it comes to them.
Models: Ymke and Ilse
Photo credits: Evelyne Photography – www.evelynephotography.com