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Silence not always golden

Are We There Yet?Charla BelinskiGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Charla Belinski
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My neighbor came by yesterday and, taking in the noise at my house and the clutter on my kitchen counter, said, “It always makes me feel better to see the mess at your house.”I’m still trying to figure out what that meant.But it’s summertime, which means clutter and kids … and plenty of both. It’s hard to catch a silent moment, and by silence I mean an absence of piano-playing, guitar-strumming, “Hannah Montana”-watching, giggling, squabbling kids. Even the drone of neighborhood lawn mowers is music to my ears compared with the blaring music in my kids’ iPods. I squeeze in quiet moments here or there. A few precious minutes, if not hours, when the kids are gone and the phone blessedly stops ringing. So brief is the solitude that I treasure it, savor it, enjoying every morsel of my time. Not long ago I was enjoying the quiet in the car as my kids sat fixated by the DVD player in our new minivan. My husband and I wavered at first at the idea of a television in the car, but for all the long trips we make to visit grandmas and grandpas, it has served us well. We are official converts to media players and minivans. Still, there are times where that kind of silence is less than golden, and something happened on this particular road trip that made me realize if we crave quiet too much, eventually that is exactly what we’ll get.

I’m not talking about the kind of quiet that comes just after the slam of the screen door as the last kid leaves for college. I’m talking about kids who are so painfully out of practice that they forget altogether how to communicate with Mom and Dad. Parents who have pushed so hard for quiet and alone-time that their kids begin to prefer it that way. We were two hours into a four-hour car ride recently – a very quiet car ride as our three kids sat mutely in the back seats, “Freaky Friday” streaming into their headphones – when they abruptly turned off the movie to ask a question. “Dad, how many light-years would it take to reach Venus?” My husband I looked at each other then out the car windows at the evening sky where Venus sat twinkling on the horizon. Somehow she had tricked our kids into looking at her instead of the DVD screen.”Well,” my husband said in his best professorial style, “let’s see if we can figure it out.”What ensued was a 90-minute conversation with all three of our kids that touched on physics, mathematics and a little philosophy to boot. Not that we know a lot about any of these subjects, but it didn’t matter. What was important was we were all engaged in a discussion that just kept going. No one asked to turn on the radio or the put in a new DVD. There was no arguing or trying to get more legroom. No one was hushing or rushing the others. We were simply five people squeezed in a car on the interstate, passing the time.

Even now as I write this column, my daughter and her friend are carrying on a conversation just over my shoulder. The doorbell just rang and the oven beeped, signaling the brownies are done. A lemonade stand is in the works. I know I could probably concentrate more fully on writing if things were a little more quiet around here. But then again, sometimes silence isn’t golden. It’s just silence. Charla Belinski teaches the positive parenting class Redirecting Children’s Behavior, and writes about parenting and family life. Her columns appear in the Post Independent every other Sunday. Contact her at Belinskis@comcast.net.


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