Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Is Your Dentist's Office as Noisy as Mine?

We are usually a sight for sore eyes whenever we come. Today was no exception. Here come 3 little kids, happy as can be, and me pushing Tessa in a stroller into the dentist office. They heard us coming....the entire waiting room. I reminded my boys to use inside voices, but they couldn't hide their enthusiasm. I guess it's a good thing for kids to be so excited about seeing the dentist. Luke bolted out of his seat when the dental hygienist called him. Ella kept asking me "can I go get my teeth cleaned now?" Jaden made friends with the receptionist while waiting for his turn. Good times had by all!

When every one's teeth had been cleaned and we were checking out, the kids were over-the-top excited. They each got to pick out stickers and a prize, not to mention the new toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss that were in individual goodie bags for them. Our dentist, who is a jolly fun older gentleman, is a new grandfather. He thoroughly enjoys my children. He kept spraying Luke with the water that rinses your mouth after the cleaning. Luke was hysterical. He counts their teeth wrong on purpose ("one, two, three, popcorn") and Jaden loves reminding him to practice counting for next time. Jaden was very loudly reminding him of this while Ella was begging me to open her toothpaste and Luke was showing me his new ball over and over and over! I was trying to schedule our next appointment and finally turned to my kids and said, "Shh, quiet down." I know. What took me so long? Geesh! The receptionist smiled and said to me, "but they're happy noises."

Well, that was a good little reminder for me. Too often I get worried about the sideways glances or stares in stores (generally by grumpy people, I might add). I guess I worry about what kind of a mother I may appear to me. You know the old adage "kids are to be seen and not heard." Okay, I have never adopted this...though occasionally I have wanted to. But, I tend to get a bit worried if they're having too much fun in public. I hear myself shushing them too often. I don't want people to think I can't control my children. The reality is that I can't control my children and I really don't want to!

Okay, for those of you who may be aghast and thinking me an unfit mother raising unruly children, please don't misunderstand. I do think there are times and places where children need to learn to sit quietly and speak quietly. But who are we kidding? Hasn't research proven that young children have the attention span of approximately one minute per year of age? For instance, the typical 4 year old can focus on one task for about 4 minutes, then he's done. On to the next. Insert distraction. My kids are absolutely like that. Good elementary teachers know that and are trained--gifted even--to work with children accordingly. So why would I expect my children to be quiet so often, especially when their enthusiasm (and noises) are not hurting anyone? I wouldn't bring my 4 young children into a University Library for an afternoon, but this was a dentist office for goodness sake!

This incident reminded me of another situation several days earlier involving my husband and the kids. My husband is much more relaxed about "kids being kids." He has never been the kind of Dad who comes home after work, grabs the newspaper and his slippers, and sits in the recliner...."kids don't bother Daddy right now." No, this is not my husband. He is in the thick of the craziness, chaos, and confusion that is so often our home. I regularly apologize for the craziness when we leave family events, but not my husband. He's not sorry. It's who we are as a family. We never wanted quiet, meek kids and we certainly didn't get quiet, meek kids. They're fun, energetic, creative, interesting, lively, talkative, and just plain fabulous! Okay, so back to the incident involving my husband and our kids. We all went to the grocery store. But, to make it quicker (and easier on me) we split up. I went shopping for groceries while Ron took the kids in the oh-so-clever-car-cart looking at hardware, toys, supplies for our pond, etc. As they headed off I meant to tell him something and said "oh, Ron..." to which he boisterously replied "you don't know us!" There were muffled laughs all around. When we left the store he talked the whole way home about how many comments he overheard or received from people about how much fun they were all clearly having. Older people stopped him to tell him how great it was to see a Dad with his kids enjoying themselves. A kind lady told him "it's nice to see kids in a store laughing for a change." You get the idea.

I was proud of him. I always am. He has no problem having fun with his kids and allowing them to have fun--even in public of all places! And it seems to be an older generation that truly enjoys observing this. They are relaxed, many are grandparents themselves, and have realized that it's okay for kids to have fun. It's healthy! It's refreshing! If only I could relax more often and let my kids just have fun even when it means that I might be on the receiving end of a few eye-rolls from some stuffy folks.

My kids' noises aren't always "happy" noises and I'm often the one who is fortunate enough to get to hear all of their different noises. However, I have learned a good lesson from the receptionist, the kind lady in the store, and my husband. Happy noises are most delightful! Many wise parents and grandparents have learned this along the way. As I said earlier, I generally apologize when leaving a family event. Our last visit with my parents in Cincinnati was no exception. I told my Dad, "Sorry for the chaos when we leave," to which he replied, "It's just kind of sad." I could be completely off base, but I'll venture a guess that he enjoys the noise and the chaos that accompanies me and my fabulously fun family of 6! I think he may even miss it when we leave--or at least for a few minutes! I know, as fast as the years have gone with my oldest son, that all too soon the noises will be gone. All of them. This is the one reminder Ron and I always receive from parents whose children are grown and no longer in their house. "Enjoy it. It goes so fast." So I want to do that. I want to enjoy the chaos, the clutter, the sheer craziness of it all. And mostly, I really want to enjoy and always remember the sounds of my kids and their happy noises!

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