When you live with the screech monkey, it is easy to forget what silence actually sounds like. The screech monkey, three months shy of being a two-year-old, has a vocabulary that is exploding. However, under any circumstance where she is tired, hungry or just plain cranky, she prefers to communicate through ear shattering screams.
This becomes a tricky parenting situation. Do you just give her the stupid sippy cup to make the screaming stop, in hopes of regaining some portion of hearing back? Do you calmly and quietly get down to her level and say “Please use your nice voice. You would like your cup? Can you say please?” and then wait, patiently, lovingly wait until she whispers, “Yes. Cup. Please.” The first few times, it is fairly easy to choose the latter. Times four through 100, however, are a different story.
Add to the ear-piercing madness a husband who loves to watch blaring Food Network shows and blast music in the car, a little girl who loves the Ramones and turns the noise control dial up a teeny bit every time I’m not looking, a work day filled of ringing phones and interrupting co-workers, you might begin to understand my intense longing for a moment of silence.
There was no other choice but to escape hundreds of miles away.
Okay, that was not the true reason of my trip to Portland, but I love the dramatic element. One of my dearest friends turned 30 this year, and a birthday trip was organized months in advance. Seven entire days with my three best friends, sans husband, work and the screech monkey? I could surely seek solace in silence somewhere between shopping and restaurant outings and late night girl convos.
But as I lay in bed that first night, the silence was deafening. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was utterly wrong. My first impulse was to jump out of bed, search for the little girl and the screech monkey, who were being much too quiet, and discover them squeezing all the shampoo out of the bottles onto the bathroom floor, “Because I peed a little on the carpet, Mama, and we are cleaning it up,” as my four year old would explain.
I did not sleep very well that first night. How could silence be worse than my screech monkey? I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.
The next night I realized that my body was attuned to waking at the slightest sound of crying, of someone requesting to have “fresh water” in their cup, of my husband’s alarm going off at 5am. I am so used to being sleep deprived that when my body actually has the chance to re-fuel, my brain interferes.
About halfway through the trip, my brain and body understood this was not a mean trick; that as soon as they relaxed into a deep sleep, they would be awoken to stumble out of bed to find a lost paci and soothe a distraught screech monkey. I relaxed into my make-shift bed of couch cushions and found peaceful slumber.
The sound of silence is something I used to take for granted. Now, on the rare occasions that I find myself in this situation, the quiet is cherished.
Which also makes cherishing my little screech monkey all the better the other 167.75 hours of the week.