I just read a Facebook post from a neighbor saying she had a bunch of kids over and her house was loud. And then it got quiet. And it reminded me of the times MY house "got quiet" when kids were over. As any mom knows, quiet is a dangerous thing. If your kids are screaming and romping around and you're reaching for the Advil, that's a good thing. At least you know where they are and what they're up to. I remember telling my kids when they were younger that they could "explore" the woods as long as I could still hear their voices. Long after their little tow-heads disappeared bobbing through the brush, I could hear their chatter and I felt secure knowing they were within screaming distance should a wayward coyote or extra-large raccoon cross their path.
Once, when my son was three, I was babysitting a neighbor boy, age four. I became aware, somewhere between doing a million chores, taking advantage of the free entertainment for my toddler, that things had become very quiet. I went to investigate, and found my son and his friend completely covered, head-to-toe, in shaving cream! In addition, they had emptied the remains of the shaving cream bottle into the heat register in the bathroom. At first I froze, and then I said "don't move!" while I grabbed the camera. But the neighbor boy started crying, afraid he was in trouble, so I had to put the camera down and attend to the tears and the mess. My older kids arrived home in the middle of this and we all got a good laugh out of it (well, they weren't laughing when I asked them to clean out the heat register - I need a long, skinny arm to reach all the way down as far as the boys had foamed it!).
Another time my son and two friends were playing. They were getting along so well, I barely noticed they were around.......until.......the dreaded quiet kicked in and I rushed to find the source. I was especially panicked this time because when I went to the bedroom where they were playing, they were nowhere to be found! But I heard giggling and opened up the closet. There sat three little sneaks, with a bottle of Tums, and each of them had suspicious, chalky substance around their mouths. I'm not sure how many they ate, but all I kept thinking was thank God it was just Tums!
When my daughter was in preschool she had a "playdate" with another child and a good friend after school. My friend and I enjoyed the afternoon kid-free and returned a few hours later to collect our offspring. Nothing seemed amiss until several hours later when my friend called me. "Have you given Hannah a bath yet?" she asked. "Um, no.....why?" I replied. "Well," she said, "you might want to strip her down!" I lifted Hannah's shirt and her entire stomach was blue. Indelible, Magic Marker blue to be exact! Apparently the girls had acquired a marker and used it to draw all over each others' bodies (but, cleverly, only where clothing concealed it). Same with the arms and legs - completely covered in blue scribbles! That one took DAYS, and many baths, to get rid of.
When my oldest daughter was a pre-teen, she had a friend over to "do makeovers". The friend left with swollen red eyes. Let me explain. In an effort to look "really pretty" my daughter had mistaken gold sparkly nail polish for eyeshadow and painted her friend's eyes. When we discovered the mistake, we attempted to remove it with polish remover, and, well.......let's just say her friend had very sensitive skin. That was fun to explain to her mom.
Once, when my son was home with me in his preschool years, he was playing by himself in his room and I was enjoying the rare peace that comes with NOT having a small child glued to my leg. It got very quiet so I went to check it out and found him asleep on the toilet, folded in half, chest on his legs and balancing precariously on the porcelain throne. Did I rush to save him from what would have been a painful (and shocking) fall? I did not. I grabbed my camera and now have, in my possession, a treasure to share with his future girlfriends, or perhaps include in a photo montage at his wedding.
Not too long ago, I was going through some old videos in an attempt to make sense of the miles of VHS tape we have documenting our children's young lives, when I came across a whole series of newscasts filmed in my eldest child's bedroom and starring each of my kids as reporter, meteorologist, field reporter, and the like. They had even set up a "news desk" and made signs. I have no idea when this happened. Obviously once when it was very, very quiet.
So, beware, parents! Your kids have secret lives! That, or we're just really clueless. But, if by chance things become really quiet in the midst of chaos, you should probably check it out. It might be the photo op of the decade!