"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
September 24, 2012
The Sound of Silence
by Melissa Howell

Recently, I was sent a list of five questions from a communications company looking for part-time help. When I got to question No. 4, it gave me pause, and made me smile:

“(Organization name) is undergoing big changes… This makes for a chaotic, stressful and sometimes unorganized work environment. What has prepared you in your life for this?”

I am a mother to four young children. I own the chaotic, stressful and sometimes unorganized work environment. That should qualify me for pretty much any job, shouldn’t it?

I played over those words in my mind for some time: Chaotic. Stressful. Unorganized. Check, check and check. But there are certainly moments of peace, calm and fairly well-structured time. And it’s usually when the children are at school.

As a child (read: self-involved teenager), I thought my mom made such a dramatic case for the need for silence. She wouldn’t want the radio on at times. She’d steal away for quiet moments, even a few seconds of silence, when she could. I just really, really didn’t get her need to be noise-free from time to time. And how could I? (This serves as yet another reminder that you simply cannot comprehend some things until you do them yourself.)

Some years later I found myself in my mid-20s and single, and thinking that my life was too quiet. Sure, I had lots of friends and a good career. But I found myself yearning for the pitter-patter of little feet, the giggle of young laughter, all the sounds that children make. (This serves as yet another reminder to enjoy the station in which we currently reside.)

Since then, four pairs of little feet have entered my life and created more than a little pitter-patter. How could I have known that those little feet soon become thumping, jumping instruments of loud bodacious booming? Or that the sweetest little giggles can turn into obnoxious chiming taunts designed to bring another sibling to screams? Or that all the sounds that children make can culminate into such a cacophony of head-crashing sounds that I want to grab my head and scream out just like Dr. Seuss’ Grinch, “All the noise, noise, noise, noise!”

I’ve heard rumors of some households filled with children that really are rather quiet for the most part. I’ve heard the rumors, but I didn’t say I believed in them. And, if they do in fact exist, I can declare with certainty that I do not live in one of them.

A two-minute excerpt from a recent weekday evening found me the recipient of a barrage of questions/statements:

“Mom, what letter should I turn my body into next? I just did a lower case “l”, now I’ll make me into an uppercase “L!”

“Mom, how many minutes do I have left to read?”

“Mom, do you want to hear me read my new library book?”

“Mom, where’s my planner?”

“Mom, what’s for dinner tomorrow?”

“Mom, what’s for breakfast tomorrow?”

“Mom, Mason just jumped over five stairs!”

“Mom, I played tetherball at recess. I’m getting really good.”

“Mom, a girl swallowed her tooth at recess today. That’s why I try to never suck in hard when I have a loose tooth.”

And on and on and mom and mom it went.

Twenty minutes later, I’m tucking the kids into bed and my son is praying for “mommy’s head to stop hurting.”

The noise component of motherhood can be downright exhausting.

And so, like the many things that come full circle, I find myself clamoring for moments of silence whenever I can get them, just like I remember my mom doing. I love music, but find at times it’s best to turn it off and enjoy the sound of nothingness. I find my evening television viewing — which has always been minimalistic at best — dwindling even further, opting instead for quieter activities when I find myself with some “me” time.

Have you ever found yourself just sitting and listening to the sound of silence when provided the opportunity? Had my younger, childless self looked into a crystal ball and observed the slightly older mothering me simply sitting and enjoying the silence, I would not have believed it. But I surely do partake of such sweetness from time to time, with gusto.

I smiled at my daughter’s recent recounting of what she has learned thus far in music class this school year: about the land of music, wherein dwells the Note Family and the Rest Family. The Note Family always makes sound, while the Rest Family is always quiet. Together, they build a House of Music and send it to the Land of People.

This has reminded me that neither the notes nor the sound is more important than the other: both are necessary to make music!

The truth about the noise, however, is that I sure do love those little people who produce it in voluminous amounts.

The truth is that sometimes it gets overwhelming and I can barely remember a time when my life wasn’t filled with the many and varied sounds of children.

The truth is that the noise too will someday come full circle, and like the dirty fingerprints on the windows, one day will be gone from my daily life. When that happens, I know in my heart of hearts I will once again wish for it.

The truth is that I relish the moments of quiet when I can find them, and the more I can appreciate the silence the more I am ready to enjoy the noise once again.

The truth is, in my world there is a Sound Family and a Silence Family. Together, they build moments and memories of great and small importance in my Land of Harmony.


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About Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell was born and raised in the woods of northern Minnesota. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

As a single 20-something, she moved to Colorado seeking an adventure. She found one, first in landing her dream job and then in landing her dream husband; four children followed.

Upon becoming a mother, she left her career in healthcare communications to be a stay-at-home mom, and now every day is an adventure with her husband Brian and children Connor (9), Isabel (6), Lucas (5) and Mason (2).

In addition, she is a freelance writer and communications consultant for a variety of organizations.

Melissa serves as Assistant director of media relations for stake public affairs and Webelos den leader

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