Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Pump Up the Volume

I was walking along the pavement to school with the kids this morning, when I had one of those heart-in-mouth moments. My youngest, playing ‘It’ with his sister, dodged away from her on the pavement and stepped into the road, narrowly missing a car.

I have a loud voice. It’s the sort of voice which can perforate eardrums, and shatter windows.

In full fishwife mode (and I don’t mean Sweet Molly Malone), I bellowed at them both to “Come here NOW!” The entire street appeared to freeze, and then a couple of kids whom I’ve never met started to gravitate towards me obediently. There was even one harassed-looking man in front of me, who turned and, for a nanosecond, started to move towards me too. He just managed to stop himself in time, but our eyes had already met and registered our mutual embarrassment.

My children, of course, were the only two people in the street to take no notice whatsoever.

The problem is that I have continually ‘raised the bar’ in terms of the volume I use to address the kids. They take no notice of any instruction issued in a moderate voice. Therefore, for anything to get done, I need to shout to add the necessary emphasis. This has continued across the years, with the amplification gradually ratcheting up. When it got to intolerable levels, I made a major effort to go in completely the opposite direction, and say things so quietly that they were forced to listen. However, this resulted in me talking to them in the menacing tones of an East-end gangster, and was equally ineffective, although it certainly frightened some of the other mums.

More recently, I have concentrated hard on not shouting so much, but the trade off is that I have to repeat every request ad infinitum. The result is a pressure cooker effect, where I am determined to maintain a calm control of my voice, but am forced to breaking point by the repetition. The longer I try to maintain control, the messier the subsequent explosion.

There seems no way back from the Mummy As Shrew scenario. I want to wipe the slate clean and start again (if I had a penny for every time I have said that as a parent.....I would have £19.73).

I think I might try and start tomorrow by communicating with them in whispers. I reckon we will be back to full Godzilla roaring within the week.

I am not drinking any wine tonight as I am going to a workshop for parents on bullying, organised by the school. I can guarantee they will say that if you want your children to avoid being bullied, DON’T SHOUT AT THEM!


The Good Woman said...

As my only child is two and a bit slow moving I haven't entirely explored the volume control yet. But as she can sleep through a decorator drilling holes in her room (which she did today) I have confidence that I too will be completely ignored.

The Secretary said...

I never shouted. My 16 year old sone tells me now that I have a look. They push too far, my sons, and I don't shout I talk in a low voice with one eyebrow raised. It stikes the fear of god into them. But then when they were small I was a smacker - didn't need to after the age of 4 - they knew. If you threaten a punishment always follow through with it - works wonders and I have two lads I can take anywhere, they will behave of suffer the wrath of Mum.

The Secretary said...

Can I add that the smack was on the back of the hand - I hate anyone to think I beat my children - now there's a thought!

rilly super said...

I never have to shout at my children, in fact I don't really have to speak to them at all much. That's what we pay the nanny for, after all.

The Secretary said...

Oh Rilly - can we swap darling, I want your life.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Drunk Mummy, I do not have children, as you know, but by God, I can't half shout!

jenny said...

Just today, I have shouted myself raw with the girls. It seems like I am in the same boat as you, I have to shout louder and louder to make myself heard and then I think they've learnt to tune me out.
I have tried turning off my voice and resort to signing only and that gets their attention, but only if they are looking! How on earth do they expect to understand me while I sign to the back of their heads?
I'm sure our distant neighbors have heard someone hollering (perhaps thats why there are hollows here??) and attributed it to hillbilly hoe-downs?

Lucy Diamond said...

This made me laugh so much - love the idea of the harassed-looking man starting to obey your command!I am a bit of a shouter, as well and it is very difficult to stop. Maybe an electric cattle prod is the next step for us? Stun guns? Ahem. Only joking. Obviously...

My partner is much calmer and more patient than I am with the kids and rarely shouts - but when he does, our youngest (2) immediately bursts into tears and says, "Daddy's being really fierce!"

Stay at home dad said...

That's a problem I have too. If I shout like I mean it my daughter bursts into tears so it's a thin line...

I would imagine that guy's recreations involve PVC and small whips.


Drunk Mummy said...

good woman - your daughter would be very much at home in my house then. I imagine my nagging sounds like slow-drilling to my kids.

secretary - its the eyebrow that does it. I need to get practising my 'Roger Moore'.

Rilly - absolutely - outsourcing at its most efficient.

M&M - do you ever have to shout at the Grey Mare?

Jenny - Maybe a hillbilly hoe-down is just what I need to let off steam!

Lucy and SAHD - I have this too, with H and the kids. It seems that we all get to play 'good cop, bad cop' as parents. Have you ever met a family where Mum is good cop, though?
Now you mention it SAHD, the chap who turned around did look like a High Court Judge.

Drunk Mummy said...

I received this e-mail from the lovely Pig in the Kitchen, who is having gremlin problems with posting her comments, so I have cut and pasted it. It was too good not to share.......

Dear Drunk Mummy,
I have the answer to all your shouting problems, and it will only cost about 20 quid from ebay...if there's one available.

A MEGAPHONE. I too got so fed up of shouting upstairs, round the house, down the garden that i put a megaphone on my christmas list a few years ago.
I have not looked back. In a perfectly reasonable voice you can say, 'Children, wash your hands it's time for tea' and they cannot pretend for a second that they couldn't hear you over the telly.

And my megaphone has a SIREN! I kid you not, a proper police siren. It has a strap for the shoulder and it has a handheld microphone thingy. I have
used it at children's parties to the hilarity of all, and during a 'NIMBY' neighbourhood protest my hubby drove up and down the road reminding everyone about a photo for the local newspaper. (god that sounds terrible, but it was very very funny!)

But mark my words DM, a megaphone is the way forward! I've often thought I could use it to alert the neighbours if we were broken into or I were being raped. But that would mean i would have to take it to bed every night and perhaps even I am not such a freak.

Drunk Mummy said...

Pig - fantastic solution! H once bought me a set of industrial headphones (like they use when digging the roads) as a present from the kids. I have worn them, but not nearly enough.

debio said...

A Head Teacher friend of mine always spoke to the children at my daughter's parties in the hallowed tones of the Archbishop of Canterbury - she had their attention, but they all had bemused exressions on their faces, as if they were being addressed by an alien.
The megaphone approach is just the ticket!

beta mum said...

A friend and I were in the park with our four kids when they were younger, and we thought we ought to develop, manufacture and market a special megaphone for parents which could be individualised with your child's name.
You'd press a button and it would bellow -
"Five minutes to home time, Johhny."
Then a few minutes later,
"Last go on the slide, time to go home."
and then finally,
"Johnny, come here please, we're going."
You could also record your own special announcements, thereby saving on vocal cords but adding to RSI of the thumb.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

No more computer problems. Beta mum that's a good megaphone has a handy carrying strap so could easily be carried to the park.

I once used it - whilst waiting for Kelly Holmes to pass by in her open-topped bus - on some male joggers. They ran past and after all those years of being shouted at by builders...i raised it to my lips and sweetly said, 'nice arse'. Oh it still makes me giggle.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Drunk Mummy, I do occasionally shout at the grey mare. She usually looks cowed and stops being naughty.

I didn't shout at her when we had a parting of the ways in front of a jump last night, but she did get a 'go on go on go on' a la Mrs Doyle when we attempted it for a second time. It worked.

Drunk Mummy said...

debio - I suppose if you are a Head Teacher and spend your entire day with children, you have to develop an alternative strategy for the sake of your vocal chords!

beta mum and Pig - I reckon you both have a great business idea here. Along with Pig's laminated 'manners' cards, you could start one of those lifestyle catalogues!

M&M - the grey mare sounds a very reasonable sort of girl.
I find I am sounding more and more like Father Jack, the older I get.