Monday, August 16, 2010

His Volume Control Goes to 11

When Ryan discovered his own voice, I figured he would experiment with it for a while, then get bored and move on to exploring something else. After all, once he learned how to blow a raspberry whenever he wanted, he moved on to figuring out how to do something else. When he mastered the art of clicking his tongue, he did it all the time for a few days then let it go and practiced something else. But the sound of his own voice, singing, humming, or screeching, seems to have become an unending source of fascination. And in his opinion, the louder the better.

For being a small child, he packs a considerable amount of volume. And not just when he’s shrieking because he’s hurt or scared or upset; he can shriek at top volume just to listen to his own voice. He wakes up in the morning and plays in his crib quietly, then begins to hum or sing and soon the volume escalates. He’s not clambering for us to come get him, he’s just testing to see how loud he can be. He does the same thing while I’m feeding him breakfast. He’ll be happily pounding on the tray of his highchair, obediently opening his mouth for me to shovel in some more oatmeal, and gazing over my shoulder at the birds on the feeder, when suddenly an invisible hand cranks his volume control to 11.

It’s not that big of a deal when we’re at home in the middle of the day. It’s not that big of a deal if he’s in the jogging stroller with Daddy. (It is his “outside voice”, after all.) It’s even manageable when we’re in the car. (Not pleasant, but manageable.) But when we’re in public somewhere, like the grocery store, or a restaurant, or a church service, or on an airplane, it’s considerably less acceptable. The problem is that there’s no way to tell a 9-month-old to use his inside voice. Sometimes if I whisper to him he’ll imitate me and drop his volume down to something more intimate. But more often than not he’ll just stare at me for a second, then screech even more loudly.

Luckily, he’s still curious enough that most of the time a distraction can make him forget to yell. A toy, or a bottle, or a silly face can usually help to turn the volume down a few notches. And in the worst-case scenario, muffling him with an ever-present rag will at least deaden the sound enough that it’s no longer physically painful to any close bystanders.

Jewelry is usually a good distraction.

Hugs can be a good distraction, too.

As are bottles. And sitting in Grandma's lap.

Of course, interesting things on the ceiling (like trombones, for instance) are the best distraction of all!

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