Sometimes raising three boys is a loud, chaotic, frantic and repetitive bundle of stress. They fight, argue, jump, bounce, hit, stumble, fight, and throw things all day long; and this is when they are just playing and being nice. They do all this playing in a very loud way. My wife and I try to teach them to use their "inside" voices but I think, that they think, when we say "inside", it means use the voice you would use if you were inside a stadium.
As a parent I am always "on". Constantly in a state of being ready to react to the sound of something breaking or the cries and tears of pain or sadness. Basically it is self induced stress.
My wife and I do our best to keep each other in check. We try to offer each other breaks, time away from the house, from the chaos, from the noise, for own peace and sanity.
Lauren might go to a craft store or JoAnn's fabrics for a hour or so to get away for a bit after a long day of having her patience tried. I may venture off to a book store, to sip some coffee and browse the shelves at a leisurely pace when I am feeling my nerves start to fray.
We go to a places for a little down time to feel normal, because, sometimes, when you have said "Don't do that. You are going to get hurt" for the seventy fifth time in a day, normal is what you need. Normal adult conversation and interactions without interruption is a welcomed necessity. Walking through a parking lot into a store at a normal pace, not herding children or pushing some type of wheeled containment device, from time to time is essential to not going crazy. We try to find peace. And quiet.
I recently discovered a new place to go and find peace. Not quiet, but peace and a chance to feel perfectly normal. I go to the Burger King by myself and I sit close to the play area. I sip my coffee and I listen to the noise. The sounds of kids screaming, laughing, yelling and carrying on. I eavesdrop on the parents chatting or talking to their kids. I hear, over and over again, the same things being said to each kid multiple times; "Come over here and eat", "No you cannot take your socks off", "don't hit your brother" and "Don't do that. You are going to get hurt." I hear the tantrums, the screaming the crying and the parent's muffled disciplinary threats said through gritted teeth.
I sit and listen to the parents struggle with their children.
I find peace in the fact that other children are just as loud as my children. I find peace in the fact that other parents are saying the same thing to their kids as I do to mine. I take it all in. I realize and reflect on the fact that I am normal, my kids are normal and that we are blessed.
Then I smile and laugh to myself as I find joy in the fact that I can just sit there and not have to react to anything. None of the kids in the play area are mine.