Last night, we tried going out to dinner with both of our kids. I can count on my fingers how many times this has happened because it takes a pretty rare blend of gumption and optimism from both Steve and me to attempt this feat. Our children are kids, after all, and the beautifully irritating thing about children is that you just don’t know what they’re going to do. At first, it was decent. I won’t say delightful, but about as close to that as you can get with two children under three.
But by the end of the meal, “delightful” was the last word I would use to describe the experience. Both Steve and I looked at a couple dining without children, envied their uninterrupted conversation, their eye contact, their quickly-consumed cocktails. “You don’t know how good you have it!” I wanted to tell them. I wanted to warn them against procreating. “I don’t know why everyone thinks having kids is the key to happiness,” I grumbled on the ride home. ‘”The rest of the world will procreate, you don’t need to – save yourself,” I’ll tell the next person I know who gets married,’ I said.
And I went to bed still feeling that way. I pitied in my loss of everything that was once so important to me, giving absolutely no thought to everything I’ve gained by becoming a parent.
And then this afternoon, I watched the baby and the toddler play together, Brandon explaining things to Holden the way he does. I looked around the toy room that a few years ago sat empty except for the rare occasion when I did a puzzle on the table. I thought of the rooms that now belong to our children that used to be Guest Room #2 and an empty room with a folding chair and an unused desk. I realized that in having children you lose solitude and serenity. That is very certain. There is no quiet peace, to be sure. Not ever, if they are awake. But you gain a joyful noise. No, it’s not always joyful, to be sure, but noise is the opposite of silence – it means exuberance and jubilation, or sometimes chaos and destruction. Sometimes it means anger, sometimes it means happiness. But it is something.
Silence is peaceful, but it is also empty.
Noise is loud, but it is also fulfilling.
Noise means you’re doing something. And parenting is a pretty damn big job you are doing. All I would be doing if I didn’t have kids is living the same as I was, without much change from one day, one week, one month, one year to the next. And yes, I will have that again, when my children have outgrown me. But for now, they haven’t. And I am exuberant that they have filled this once-too-big house with just the right amount of noise and chaos. That they have filled boring old black-and-white me with some color and glitter. These are the best days of my life. One day I will look back on these days with only fond memories – time having dwarfed the stress and magnified the joy.
One day, I will sit at a restaurant sans kids and look over at a young couple struggling to keep their infant in a high chair and their toddler at the table. I will take a sip of my cocktail and smile that they get that color and glitter in their lives. Loud? Oh yes. But just like when you’re always around noise you crave silence, I’m sure I will learn that when you live in silence you crave noise.