Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Sound Barrier

"You will not cry, or whine, or laugh, or giggle, or sneeze or burp or fart. So no, no, no annoying sounds." --Mr. Gru, Despicable Me

"That's the one thing he hated: the noise, noise, noise, noise!" --Dr. Suess, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

It's not a good sign for a mother when she relates to the villains in children's media. And yet that's the position I find myself in. I was watching Despicable Me with the kids yesterday, heard the despicable Mr. Gru lay out the ground rules for his adopted daughters (see above), and I saw myself in him.

My husband and closest friends know I have an affliction called my "noise issue." Certain sounds set me on edge. They include but are not limited to:

--electronic musical toys and drums
--the sound of chewing in an otherwise quiet room
--rustling of plastic food packaging (particularly intolerable when followed by the sound of chewing)
-- repetitive tapping or clicking sounds
-- slurping of Popsicles directly behind me while I am reading or typing an e-mail or blogging

Although I know, in my most rational moods that I am pretty good mom, my intolerance for these types of noises makes me question if perhaps I'm not cut out for motherhood after all. This is my personal sound barrier: my inability to tolerate auditory stimuli is barring my path toward inner peace and kind mothering (and wife-ing).

As I said in my last blog, after exposure to enough yelling or crying I can get really frustrated, not so much about the fact that I can't control my daughter, but that I can't control the physical unease the sound creates in myself. But happy noises can set me on edge too, like the girls playing their synthesizer piano or singing into their Fisher-Price microphone (thanks to my two childless brothers for those Christmas gifts).

My friend Tris says I have a Noise Issue because I am a creative person, and the auditory chaos interrupts the creative process which is always going on inside my head. My husband just says I'm an intolerant turd (he says it lovingly, though). I am inclined to think it is genetic because my mom has the same problem.

When we were kids, Mom would often turn the radio on in the car at our request, and then shut it off automatically a couple of minutes later without even realizing it. She said the noise of us talking in combination of the radio just "got to her." In high school psychology I learned about the brain's reticular activating system, which filters out stimuli, deciding what to which to focus on and which to sort into the "background noise" category. Mom and I decided that our RASes were slightly dysfunctional; our filtration system gets easily overloaded. I was speaking at church this summer and actually had to ask a mom with a crying baby to leave the room because I kept losing my train of thought. Intolerant turd indeed.

So, what to do about this? Well, for one thing, having more children are out of the question. But I want to be cast less in the Grinch role with my family and everyone getting quieter doesn't seem to be a reasonable solution. The change must come from me.

Perhaps some exposure therapy would help: like, I'll try to read a recipe and cook dinner while Sophia is singing opera (she truly thinks she can), Livie is playing the toy piano and Hubby is eating potato chips right next to me and see how long I can go without freaking out. Oh wait, I have been doing that already, for about four years. Anybody have any other suggestions?

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