I remember Little C’s shock when I told her spiders eat their young. I had to — there was the spider and all around it were the dead bodies of tiny little spiders. She got another of those shocks the other day when her father explained how young fish need to be separated from their parents so they don’t eat them. That’s life for you, darling, animals eat their young. The two reasons we don’t is that we have a concept of cuteness and because our young can say “Mummy, I love you.”
Have you ever wondered why babies are so endearing even when they’re not the prettiest little angels? (I’m sorry but not all babies are pretty, there I said it) I’ll tell you. It’s because they can’t speak. Since they can’t speak and melt our hearts with “Mummy/Daddy I love you” they need the extra cuteness to survive. I’m serious. If you haven’t been woken up at half past three in the morning for the fourth time by a hungry baby you haven’t lived. Cuteness is a survival mechanism, I’m sure.
Once they grow up a little — and they do grow up so fast it’s horrifying and amazing at the same time — they start speaking and, well, some never stop. I was stunned to find recently I was not the only person I know who has a problem with noises, all noises (except music I have personally chosen). It appears two friends of mine also have this problem. Incidentally, both of them have daughters, like me. I’m sure it’s a coincidence. Their kids are angels.
My kid could make a career as a radio DJ even if she starts now. It is interesting her father decided just a few days ago to disclose his own past plans to become a radio DJ once upon a time. Obviously, some thoughts on apples and trees were unavoidable. I do wish I had been warned. It’s always better to be prepared. Especially when circumstances put you and the resident chatterbox in the same room for the whole day, every day. With a bonus: another dozen chatterboxes.
Remote classes have been great so far. The reason they have been great, besides the dedicated teachers and the children’s enthusiasm, is that I have headphones. In an uncharacteristic turn of providence this time I did not forget my headphones at home. Which is the reason we are all still standing and in reasonably good health. Cabin fever? Please.
The only thing that can make me go full Jack Torrance is noise torture and while I would admit there are worse noises than a dozen children chittering it’s the chittering that I’m having to survive and not the worse noise. There’s also a nervous dog down the street that barks from dusk till dawn and dawn till dusk. How do they do it, does anyone know? I mean, don’t they get tired?
This is a question I’ve asked Little C often enough, usually after two hours of non-stop talking. I seriously cannot understand how the articulatory tract stands it. Me, I used to start coughing on the fifth minute of talking/reading because my throat went dry. But I suppose practice makes perfect. By the end of my bedtime story reading gig I could read for half an hour without any side effects.
Putting a talkative child and her noise-intolerant mother in one room all day every day (because it’s a been too cold for me to use my study and there aren’t enough heaters) is risky and there was a lot of snapping on my part during the first week. Luckily, I’m as adaptive as a cockroach and by the third week I’ve developed a ritual. Wake her up, turn on Microsoft Teams, select Spotify playlist, wait for class to start and kids begin trading accusations of muting each other, plug ears, enjoy the music. That’s how hell turns into heaven.
I think the contribution of headphones to civilisation may have been overlooked. We’ve heard tonnes about the computer, about electricity and cooking but do we think about headphones? No. We don’t think about the freedom to listen to whatever you want however loud you want (I know it’s kind of paradoxical but music is sounds I like so I like them loud) without — this is the crucial part — without interfering with anyone else’s activities.
The freedom headphones give you is also the freedom to avoid conversations you’d much rather set yourself on fire than have. I remember how Big C barely avoided violence when he had to share an office at work with one of those people who have an opinion on absolutely everything and feel the compulsion to constantly share it with everyone who happens to be around. What helped him? That’s right, headphones. Nobody talks to people with headphones. Even if they do, you can’t hear them. We really must appreciate these little freedom fighters more.