I have three children and they are loud. Just so fucking loud. They're the loudest creatures on the face of the Earth, howler monkeys included.
And they're loud first thing in the morning. There's no ramping up to loudness. They don't need a cup of coffee and a shower to get going. One moment, they're sound asleep in their rooms. The next... GRAHHHHHHH I'M SCREAMING AT YOU SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM!!!
As a result, my house has become a repository of endless shushing. We shush the kids when they're making noise too close to the baby's room. We shush them when they're being too rowdy at bedtime. We shush them when we're on the phone. We shush them when they clomp their feet too loudly. We shush my seven-year-old when she runs up to us and screams BOO! right in our goddamn faces, which is the most blood-boiling thing ever. It's like being stuck in a car with Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne.
We shush my parents when they visit because my parents are louder than hell and that must be why the kids are so damn loud. We shush each other for shushing the kids too loudly.
We BEG the kids to use their indoor voices. We read them books like Little Tiger Is Loud that are supposed to teach them about volume control. They don't don’t give a shit. They throw the books across the room and then go spazzing off to yell at the walls. And the vicious cycle of shushing begins again.
I don't know why we still do this. If anything, the past seven years have taught me that shushing is a flawed strategy. Half the time, I find my wife's shushing more annoying than whatever yelping noises the kids are making. We all want our kids to be calm and reserved and polite, to sit there and quietly compose symphonies while we're busy having a cocktail party/book club meeting in the living room. But that's just a French parenting wet dream. REAL kids aren't like that. They need to be loud. They have a million gigawatts of energy they have to burn through, and loudness is part of that exorcism. I don't want my kids to be shushed all the time. I don't want them growing up thinking that they don't have the right to talk or sing or dance or remember one stupid joke from Austin & Ally and repeat it over and over until the world wants them dead. I want to encourage, not suppress.
So I'm staging a shushing intervention. There has to be a better way to keep my children from being human air horns. Unfortunately, the best solution—to become filthy rich and live in a giant house with fallout shelter-grade soundproof walls and give each child a separate room to be annoying in—isn't feasible as of now. Instead, I will follow these commandments:
1. DO NOT REACT TO LOUDNESS. The number one reason children make noise is to get your attention. So when you tell them, "Dear God, please. Just shut up for 30 seconds, I'm begging you," that lets them know that loudness WORKS. You're talking to them. Time for them to become even louder, to grab a pair of maracas and being banging on a pipe organ with them. Children are like the homeless: you cannot engage. You cannot make eye contact. You must leave. If there's no reaction to them being loud, they'll take the cue. I think. God, I hope so.
2. OFFER A DIVERSION. "Ooooh, look at this junior crocheting kit! Colorful yarns! Huh? Huh?" (Child starts screaming.) "OK, lemme just turn the TV on." (Child is now quiet and happy.)
3. MODEL PROPER VOLUME CONTROL. It goes without saying that if you are loud and annoying, your children will probably be loud and annoying. Part of the reason my children are loud indoors is because Daddy will sometimes spill a glass of seltzer and react as if he's just witnessed a live political assassination. OH MY GOD SELTZER EVERYWHERE!!! You have to adjust your own volume when you're inside, or when the baby is sleeping, or when Act III of Hamlet is about to begin at the Royal Shakespeare Theater. Hopefully, they learn by your example. It might take 30 years, but eventually they'll get the hang of it.
4. GIVE THEM FOOD. Children are often loud and cranky because they're hungry but too stupid to articulate it. Giving them a light snack will A) stuff their mouths, making it harder for them to scream, and B) make them full, eventually putting them to sleep.
5. IF THEY REFUSE TO SHUT UP, START DRINKING. Bourbon mutes everything. It really does.
Drew Magary writes for Deadspin and Gawker. He's also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter @drewmagary and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also order Drew's new book, Someone Could Get Hurt, through his homepage. Image by Jim Cooke.