Phyllis Britt

Phyllis Britt

I spent half of last week in Greenville watching my 4- and 7-year-old granddaughters while their parents went to Austin, Texas, for a celebration with my son-in-law’s company.

The girls are typical of kids their ages. They’re both in school – Pearce in first grade and Clarke in 4-K– and they’re both in one extracurricular activity this year – gymnastics.

I had to marvel once again at the pace of life these days. On Thursday I picked them up at 5 p.m. with dinner in hand – God bless Chick-fil-A – and headed to gymnastics. While Clarke was in gymnastics, Pearce quickly ate dinner and did most of her homework. Then while Pearce was in gymnastics class, Clarke ate her dinner. Even with that, by the time we got home it was nearly 8:30 and time for everyone to be in bed – we didn’t make it (and we definitely did not have time for a bath or anything else).

I started thinking about what it was like when my kids were that age. My kids were involved in extracurricular activities. By the time they were 7, we had a full plate with Scouts (for two of them), dance (for two of them), soccer (for all 3), horseback (for one of them) and a variety of church-related and school-related events. So why did I feel so breathless while I was in Greenville? Yes, I realize I’m nearly 30 years older now, but I think part of the difference was that my job at the time allowed me to bring my kids straight home from school and start on their studies before the extracurricular activities began. These days very few parents have the luxury of being home at 3 p.m. each day, so everything has to be crammed into the hours from 5 or 6 to 8 p.m. My limited experience with that is that it is no fun.

And, of course, as if the day-to-day activities weren’t enough, there was a birthday party on Saturday for my Greenville girls. (As an aside, I wish we had a kids’ store like the one I found in Greenville. My daughter had not had time to buy a birthday present for the party, so she asked if I’d take care of it and suggested maybe I could try this little shop called the Elephant’s Trunk for possibilities. We have a couple of stores in the CSRA that have a nice variety of interesting gift items, but often at a price. The Elephant’s Trunk certainly had its fair share of clever but pricey items, but it also had a huge selection of suitable birthday gifts for $15 or less – plus a knowledgeable staff and free gift wrapping. I will go back there in the future.)

The birthday party was at Pump It Up, a well-organized venue that I’ve mentioned before. It has all sorts of blow-up slides, a rock wall, places to climb and jump, and even riding foot-powered toys for the very little attendees.

But what struck me was the noise level. It reminded me of taking kids to Chick-fil-A. There is always one kid in the play area who thinks that, with his/her parents in the main dining room, he/she can take the opportunity to scream at the top of his/her lungs. Why? I don’t think there are many kids who enjoy listening to that noise, but there’s always one who is sure we all will delight in the screaming.

Well, at this birthday party, the rooms were huge, with 20-foot ceilings to accommodate all those blow-ups. And, true to form, there was one child – a little girl, I think, judging by the pitch – who delighted in squealing at the top of her lungs. I ask again: Why? The child screeched for the entire party. And, I’m sorry, maybe I’ve turned into an old fuddy-duddy, but where were her parents? I think even when my kids were that age, I would have been there to say, in no uncertain terms, “Stop it!”

The party ended in a smaller room with food and birthday cake, and someone else took up the noise torch. The little girl stopped squealing, and a little boy started yelling at the top of his lungs. One more time – Why?

I must admit I was encouraged by my granddaughters’ reactions. Both of my Greenville granddaughters definitely take after their mom. I’m sure I’ve mentioned in the past that the only time Liz took tap dancing (when she was 4), she spent every class dancing with her hands over her ears – can you imagine trying to dance when you can’t hear the music because you can’t stand hearing the taps on the floor?

Like her mother, Pearce used to get very upset with loud noises and spent a great deal of time with her hands over her ears in public places. At this party, I noticed she’s finally old enough – or mature enough – to go with the flow (without her hands over her ears), despite the fact that she still hates the noise. (The good news here is that with these girls, you can turn the TV volume way down, and Pearce will still be OK with that. I truly think she and her mother have hypersensitive hearing.)

And Clarke, who is often much louder on her own than her sister, has apparently begun to recognize what’s appropriate and welcome by others. When the kids were eating cake, and the one child began yelling, I looked over to see Clarke using her jacket over her ears to muffle the sound.

So, to those of you who tend to want to let your child express him/herself in whatever way the child sees fit, please consider your surroundings. If you’re at home, have at it. But if your child is at a birthday party with 20 other kids, please encourage him/her to rein in the noise.