To say I have always been a very noise-conscious traveler is an understatement. Even in my 20s while I stayed at hostels filled with young travelers drinking and slamming doors and partying all night long, I was in my room quietly reading or journaling about the day’s travels or playing on my Nintendo DS. Especially after being plagued by those partiers slamming doors across halls from me and keeping my jetlagged self awake all night, or neighbors in apartments whose music boomed through my walls, I strove to be a quiet traveler. My belief was (is? I don’t even know anymore) that I didn’t want to infringe on someone’s recovery from jetlag or take the focus off of their experience at the Louvre.
I am every traveler’s dream hotel or hostel neighbor. You won’t even know I’m there.
Or I should say wouldn’t. You will definitely know I’m there now.
I always thought I had a quiet toddler until we stayed in a hotel with her right after she turned two.
On our recent journey to Long Beach, it occurred to me that I am now a loud traveler. I get the side-eye. I get the sighs and eyerolls. I probably get other reactions through walls that I’ll never know about.
She’s developed a hobby of screaming for no reason. I thought it was something she did sometimes, but that was because it’s no biggie if she screams for fun in our house. Staying in a hotel, I was pretty sure she was screaming nonstop the entire time (disclaimer: she wasn’t. It was probably just a few times, but it FELT like a lot). And these aren’t delicate little screams. They are sudden, piercing shrieks when she gets filled with so much joie de vivre that it spills forth in a burst of screeching.
She saw the ocean. She loves the ocean. She saw all the snacks we’d brought along. What’s not to love about snacks? She saw the big bed where she knew she’d be tormenting us all night long because why sleep in a hotel when you can stay awake all night at the world’s best slumber party? At least these are the things I’m guessing set off the scream she let out that threw my soul into conflict as I realized that probably everyone within a five-room radius could hear her delighted squeals. Probably at least half of them had opinions about it.
Later we went to the hotel’s indoor pool and her exuberant screeches echoed off of the tiled walls. And it’s not like she was the only kid there being loud, but even some of the other kids turned to look to see if everything was okay. Yeah. It’s fine. My daughter just has some pipes on her.
It wasn’t the first time I realized I couldn’t exist in my invisible quiet bubble anymore. The first time was at a craft store when Little Monster decided that 1) she had to walk and would not go in the cart and that 2) she did not have to listen to me when I told her not to grab all the breakable things on shelves because obviously I didn’t know what I was talking about. We talked about it for a little bit before I concluded we would find no compromise, so I picked her up and left the store. Screeches followed.
And then came the side-eye. I caught a woman at the registers looking at me like I’d done something wrong as I walked out of the store with my squirming, angry toddler. But what was I supposed to do? My options were: keep her in the store and let her pull everything off of the shelves, or leave. I’d chosen to leave. Leaving caused toddler opinions. Why the side-eye, Carolyn?
Now that side-eye follows me when we travel. It’s come at me in restaurants, in stores, waiting in lines.
And I feel much the same as I did that day in the craft store. What am I supposed to do? I do my best to keep my toddler happy and engaged, but toddlers have lots of feelings and lots of big sounds – happy and otherwise. Everyone knows this, but it’s tough not to feel a little judged because I can see it on the faces of people we encounter. Certainly not everyone, but it’s often enough that it has made me feel sorry…but also kind of not.
Because what can I do about it? There are literally no solutions. My toddler goes from quiet to screaming in 60 seconds or less, and then she goes right back to being quiet because…I guess screaming makes her happy. I can’t see it coming and the more I try to stop it, the more screams come out.
And noise is what toddlers do. I don’t want to impede her toddlerness. I mean, sometimes I want to impede her toddlerness, like when it involves pouring all her water on the floor or dumping out every toy she’s ever owned into the living room floor or when she thinks she’s the one who should be driving my car instead of me.
But I want her to grow up confident in her ability to speak up (even if it still means we’re leaving the store) and surely not shushing her toddlery outbursts is part of that. Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe I have just come to terms with the fact that shushing just ignites a round of sheer toddler delight as she knows she has done something to get a reaction and she MUST DO MORE OF IT RIGHT NOW! Cue more screaming. Piercing screaming. I don’t even know how she has vocal cords left.
So I am sorry for travelers near us when she needs to get her screamies out. I know how it feels to be chilling in your hotel room and then have unexpected noise come through your walls. I understand and I apologize for the disturbance (but I don’t apologize to that lady in the craft store because come on!)
But at the same time, I’m not sorry. I do my best to avoid situations where her toddlerness will unleash upon innocent bystanders, but sometimes toddlers do things that surprise us all.
So put that side-eye away. Trust me. It’s way louder for me than it is for anyone else. I am pretty sure she has given me a rollicking case of tinnitus.