Wednesday, February 29, 2012

He Goes to Eleven

My son learned the difference between “soft” and “loud” at quite an early age. My husband and I taught him as a survival tactic for our eardrums.  

It was my fault, really. I’m pretty sure it all began when I taught him the concept of “echo”. The stairwell in our house has a great echo, so I taught him that if you called out the word “echo,” you got great reverb. He tried it, then he tried it louder, then he tried it yet louder. And then he discovered that if he shouted it loud enough, he could hit the correct frequency to make the remote control doorbell in the basement ring. Once he discovered that, his volume knob was permanently set to 11.

Very quickly I realized my mistake and attempted to teach him to whisper. Unfortunately, whispering is much less exciting than shouting to a two-year-old. So I tried to outsmart him. (Ha, fat chance.) I figured that if I taught him to contrast shouting and whispering, he wouldn’t need to shout so loud to get the same effect. So together we would shout the word “LOUD!” then whisper the word “soft” over and over. I tried to fool him by shouting a little softer each time but he didn’t fall for that. In fact, he soon discovered that this game was more fun the louder you shouted the word “LOUD.” (The volume of the word “soft” was basically irrelevant. And often as loud as the word “loud.”)

I tried another tack, trying to teach him that there are times when you need to be loud, like when you’re calling to someone who’s at the other end of the playground, and there are times when you need to be quiet, like at a restaurant. He does seem to have gotten the idea of being quiet out in public, for the most part. And he takes advantage of the lesson that his “outside voice” can be much louder than his “inside voice,” and screeches when he’s on the playground or shouts “echo” at the top of his lungs in the parking garage. But for some reason, when he’s playing at home, all those lessons go out the window and the volume knob goes right back to 11.

Lately, he has taken to pointing out to anyone in the room where he is, as if we had misplaced him in the half-second since he’d been looking one of us in the eye. “Mama, here I am!” he’ll shout from two feet away. “Dada, I’m over here!” from the other end of the couch. But the best is when he is actually touching you physically, whether leaning against your back, sitting in your lap, or his latest trick, leaning around you as you’re sitting on the floor or couch, literally touching his nose to yours, and shrieking, “Here I am! Do you see me?!!” No, in fact, I cannot see you, since my eyes cannot focus on an image three microns away from my retinas. But you can bet I can hear you, because

Someday, when my children are both grown and gone, and my house seems empty and quiet, I might miss the days of volume 11.

But probably not.

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