With Smartmom, children are seen and heard - Brooklyn Paper

With Smartmom, children are seen and heard

The sounds of childhood. It’s not the giggles and squeals of joy that warms the hearts of parents everywhere. Kids make a lot of racket, and from time to time, it can cause parents and neighbors much consternation.

For 19 years, Smartmom has been trying to control the sound level in her apartment. Sure, the noise is sometimes just the effusive energy and activity of childhood. But there’s also the fighting and the crying and the yelling and the …

It’s been a while, but Teen Spirit and the Oh So Feisty One were crying babies once. Neither of them were particularly colicky, but they did do their share of crying. In the first few weeks of his life, Teen Spirit would get so hungry that he’d launch into an ear-piercing wail. Usually it would start with a benign whimper (hungry baby here), but it would quickly develop into an angry roar (HUNGRY BABY HERE!).

The Oh So Feisty One was also a big screamer. On her first morning home from the hospital, she woke with a huge scream.

“Hey, mom, I like your new alarm clock,” the then-5-year-old Teen Spirit memorably said.

But you can’t really complain about a crying baby. It’s all part of the life cycle, the essential way that babies make their needs know before they learn language: dirty diaper, hunger, pain, fear, a call for love and attention.

But that doesn’t mean people don’t complain. Smartmom remembers airplane trips when a crying Teen Spirit or OSFO would inspire complaints from other passengers.

“Can’t you do something about your baby?” another passenger once grumbled her way.

Truth be told, Smartmom now rolls her eyes (inwardly) when she hears the sharp cry of a baby on an airplane. It may be perfectly natural, but it does put her nerves on edge when she flies.

And what about tantrums? The sound of a toddler wailing and screaming in fury must be one of the most unpleasant sounds of childhood — and a cause for neighbor’s complaints a-plenty. But what’s a parent to do? Tantrums also represent an important stage of growth and childhood expression.

But crying is nothing compared to the pitter patter of little feet also known as the unbridled — and high volume — energy of youth. Teen Spirit loved to run up and down the hallway playing his imaginary superhero games. The downstairs neighbors used to call him Thumper. Their chandelier would shake when Teen Spirit careened through the living room. At high speed.

“There goes Thumper,” they’d say.

But they didn’t complain too much because they had their own brood of three boys and one very active girl running up and down their hallway.

They were living in their own private cacophony — and causing havoc for their own downstairs neighbors.

Lucky is the family that lives on the top floor.

Kids growing up in apartment buildings have as much raw energy as their suburban (and brownstone) counterpoints. But they don’t have the backyards or the one-family houses to run wild in.

In the cold weather, especially, it can be hard on the neighbors when kids use their apartments as winter playgrounds.

Active playdates and slumber parties also test neighborly patience. Smartmom remembers the time OSFO and Teen Spirit spent an evening making a action adventure movie in the apartment with friends, which entailed moving furniture, dramatic screams and leaping from one end of the apartment to the other.


Smartmom is humiliated at the thought that her neighbors had overheard all the parent/child battles of Teen Spirit and OSFO’s childhood and adolescence.


Each age of childhood has its own distinctive racket. These days, Teen Spirit and his friends gather in the living room and have rowdy sing-a-longs. Then there’s the welcome sound (and racket) of OSFO practicing the piano and Teen Spirit recording his multi-track songs and singing in a loud stage voice while he’s doing it.

Smartmom wonders what it will be like next year without Teen Spirit. What will life be like with one less child to make noise? Will it be hard to get used to? Will it make her sad?

Let’s just say, there are some noises she’ll miss and others she won’t. But it remains to be seen. Or heard.

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