use your OUTSIDE voice!

I was reading one of the blogs I follow and this memory came flooding back.

We were at a track meet. Outside. Under a clear blue sky. The sound system blaring every time the announcer listed the race winners. Track meets last HOURS. We wait and wait and wait to watch FavoriteSon run for less than 12 seconds, then we wait and wait and wait for him to run for 26 seconds . . . It was, you know, a track meet.

PinkGirl gets bored. As I would if I were 8 years old and had to hang out at my big brother’s 3 to 4 hour track meet. So I let her play and check in with me every once in a while. Thankfully, she always finds the fun and usually makes a new friend or two. When the high jump and pole vault events are over I can usually find her on the giant landing pad with a group of kids.

This particular day, one of her classmates, who has a big sister who runs track, came to the meet. They were under the bleachers, playing. Giggling. Squealing like 8 year old girls tend to do. They were DIRECTLY beneath me and the other girl’s father.

Let me give a little background, here. The other girl, who I’ll call ChurchMouse, was invited to PinkGirl’s birthday slumber party back in November. Since I somehow have the ability to completely tune out kid noise that tends to drive other parents insane, (it’s true. I don’t know how I do it, but I do.) I let the girls get as loud as they wanted while they played. At one point, I heard a squeal/scream that penetrated even MY noise threshold and I said, “Was that CHURCHMOUSE?” I had NEVER heard that child before. You ask her a question and you have to lean in for the answer. She’s quiet. Polite. And I know why. I’ve seen her mother interact with her. Zero tolerance for . . . here’s the way I explained it to Pinkgirl:

“ChurchMouse’s mom is just more comfortable with kids who sit still and be quiet. But I need to tell you something. You are a very enthusiastic and curious girl and I don’t want you to sit still and be quiet. If you did, I would be very bored. So if you want to sing and dance, sing and dance. But if you are ever around ChurchMouse’s mom and she wants you to sit still and be quiet, please respect her and obey her while you are around her. But when you come home, don’t ever think that’s what mom and dad want you to do.”

So, back to the track meet. You know, the one OUTSIDE, with all the noise, and the girls playing under the bleachers. There’s a squeal/screech, followed by giggles. ChurchMouse’s father leans down and calls under the bleacher for ChurchMouse to “settle down.”

Settle down? At a track meet? WHY is this necessary? NOBODY on the bleachers seems to care a flip, if they even heard anything in the first place. I say NOTHING to PinkGirl. I consider the possibility that because I didn’t admonish MY daughter, he thinks my parenting is . . . lacking.

And yet, I am unmoved.

A few minutes pass. Then the girls must have overrun his noise threshold again, because he repeats the leaning “settle down” warning and ads a consequence. ChurchMouse will have to come and sit with him. Which means PinkGirl wouldn’t be able to play with her.

So I look at the dad and ask, “Would you be more comfortable if they were quiet, you big fun sucker?” (okay, I said “you big fun sucker” in my head. But hey, it made me feel better.)

He pauses. He looks at me as I walk down the bleachers toward the girls, but doesn’t follow me. At the edge of the bleachers, I see the girls and call PinkGirl over so he can’t hear me talking to her from above. I tell PinkGirl that they should probably move out from under his seat or ChurchMouse will get in trouble and have to go sit with her dad.

We’re inviting ChurchMouse over for play dates this summer and I’m going to let her use her outside voice.

Even inside.

3 thoughts on “use your OUTSIDE voice!

  1. I try hard to strike a balance between shielding and suffocation. My kids play in the front yard, go barefoot down the sidewalk 1/4 of a mile each direction, go to the neighborhood park nearby (and out of sight) by themselves or across the street and behind the neighbors’ houses to play at the high school. We have tried to teach them what to do if a stranger approaches or if they get hurt, and so far it has worked (like when 7yo ran head-first into the football field goalpost on her sled this winter and 9yo called home on my cell phone I’d given her for emergencies).

    But at the same time, my husband and I are definitely more like the dad in your story than like you! I would have worried that my kid was disturbing other people – even if no one looked disturbed – and shushed her. If I can hear the kids screaming from outside when I am inside down in the basement with the AC on, then I know other people who don’t have kids – or people who might have napping young kids – can hear them inside their homes too, and I do go up and shush them even though they are outside.

    I guess there are two sides to everything and in this case, I see both sides.

    Debbie – I can see your point about the neighborhood situation. If kid noise penetrates someone’s house, that’s intrusive. Our house backs up to woods and a river and our side lot lines are pretty big, so we’re lucky. Nevertheless, the slumber party screech was inside the house. We actually had a problem with a teenage boy practicing an amplified base guitar between 10 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. a few years ago. We heard that very clearly.

    But this event was already loud. Street/traffic noise, lots and LOTS of teenagers, spectators, announcements, gunshot race starts . . . The girls moved to play under one of the track teams just a few feet from where they were playing before and the dad didn’t issue any more warnings. (by JSM)

  2. You’re such a fun mommy!

    With my brood I, too, have learned to block it out. I just don’t hear it anymore. Although the “I’m in serious pain” scream does manage to get through still! 😀

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