Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Noise is noise but sounds different to everyone

Any one who has tried to keep a toddler to play quietly for more than 10 seconds know that this is something of an impossible contradiction in it self. Toddlers, and children all ages, just don't play with the volume turned down. They can be quiet for a while, but rest assured, they all go up to eleven, sooner or later.
This has been recognised in Berlin, Germany today when a law was amended to exempt children from noise pollution. They can run, play, bounce balls, and generally cause a wild rumpus as long as they comply to the normal standards of quiet time, IE Sundays, and evenings.

An older friend of mine in the UK had recently moved in to her dream apartment, a ground floor flat overlooking a beautiful shared back yard which she shared with another five tenants, when she noticed that two other families had small children ranging from the ages of 2 and 7. The kids behaved as all kids. They woke up early, played chase around the flat, ran scooters up and down the badly isolated hard wood floors, and after breakfast they would all gather in the back yard and play ball and hide and seek, all the while using the full resources of their young voices while calling out for each other.
My friend found this intolerable. She couldn't understand the nerve of the parents who'd let this go on while decent people, like herself, tried to rest up on a Saturday morning after a long week at work. She felt that her privacy, and her dream, had been invaded by barbarians. She would wake up early in the morning and just lie in bed wide awake, waiting for the noise to start. She no longer felt she could keep the windows open to the yard for fresh air, she couldn't enjoy her coffee and papers in the afternoons. Her routines where no longer her own. Even though she was single and had no children of her own, she had to take other people in to consideration, and plan around other peoples lives in order to live her own life as she saw fit. She was distraught.
I suggested that she should, politely and humbly, talk to the families and see if they could come to some sort of compromise.
- Let them know what time you usually wake up in the mornings and maybe they could stick the kids in front of the TV until then. But living in a big city, noise kind of comes as part of the package.
It wasn't good enough. She stayed for another two months, then decided to sell up and move further out.
I understand how she felt. All she wanted was some peace and quiet.
But I can also understand the poor families with their children and their games, and toys. Try to keep it down? Eh.... what?
There are limits to anyone's patience, and I am a self-confessed bi*** when it comes to unruly children. But normal noise is normal.
If you don't like children - don't live next to a school. If you can't stand kids crying and screaming, don't sit next to them on the bus.
But parents: please respect that not all people think that little Charlie's cries of joy, and his snotty nose, and his incessant rants about snacks and his tantrums are as charming as you do when we all share a crowded bus on our way home in rush-hour traffic or try to have a lie in on a Saturday morning.


  1. Just gave your blog link to a friend of mine with 2 kids (2 and 4). She is about to tear her hair out and feeling horribly guilty and like a failure sometimes. I just wanted her to know she wasn't alone, that it's a tough job that really tests your strength. Thanks for being so articulate!!!

  2. Hi Indie, it is a hard job, the hardest f them all (although, if you read my blog you know I am lothed to call it job..... I don't get paid, I get no paid holiday, there are no caree prospects, and the perks... are there any:).
    2 and 4 are really demanding times and to have two at the same time - wow! I hope she has friends or family she can off-load on.
    Take care, and love to your friend

    love, angry mother