Monday, August 19, 2013

Quiet and Peaceful

The school year has started.
Facebook is filling up with posts about it, both pro and con.

One theme I'm starting to see is this: "With the kids back to school, it's so quiet and peaceful."

It struck me this morning that I have never had that experience, of sending my kids off to school.

It makes me wonder about other people's lives. What were their summer days like, that the first thing they say once it ends, is "things are so quiet and peaceful"? What are their relationships with their kids like? If it is suddenly "quiet and peaceful" today, what was it like yesterday?

"Quiet," I get. There have been times when all three of my kids went somewhere with someone else, and the house was suddenly quiet, with a sense of emptiness. The little sounds, so subtle as to be almost unheard, the sounds of breathing, or moving around, were absent. Like how, when you walk into an empty house, you can tell that no one is there. When everyone is home, even if all three kids are sleeping, I can still feel them, hear them.

So I understand why someone might comment on things being quiet.

But "peaceful," as if that is an unusual state?
Where does that come from?

My kids grew up with their share of disagreements and arguments, for sure. Being unschoolers does not exempt us from human interaction, in the least. There have been times when it has felt tense and stressful, at least until people have been able to catch their breath, regroup, calm down, think things through, make amends, or whatever was necessary to maintain and improve connections with each other. We've all had times of more- or less- difficulty in getting along, based on temperament, circumstances, external stressors, etc. At no time, though, do I think I would have remarked that an absence of all that interaction was "peaceful, " as if the interaction itself was NOT "peaceful."

Maybe it's the combination, that people often combine "quiet" and "peaceful" as if those are always connected, that puzzles me most.

Around here, things are rarely quiet, but often peaceful.
There may be conversation, or music, or heated discussion. We may be playing a game that involves a lot of talking, laughing, even yelling. The TV may be on, or the radio. The animals may be talkative- the cats frequently make all sorts of cat sounds and the dog may join in with some barking (but he can't howl, and his attempts are highly amusing).

Through all of that, there is rarely any sense of non-peacefulness. We are, typically, a pretty happy group.

I've never heard anyone say "It is so loud and peaceful."

Only quiet.

I'm far more likely to suggest that it is "quiet and lonely" than I would be to say "quiet and peaceful."
And it isn't even really "lonely."
I think it's closer to "quiet and anticipatory."
Waiting for someone to wake, or to come home. Collecting up thoughts and ideas I want to share with them the next time I see them. Completing tasks that take my attention, at a time when I have no need of focusing that attention on other people.

As I'm writing this, my house is relatively quiet.
We are all here, but two are sleeping, two are off in another room where I can't hear them, and the animals are all relaxed.
It is, amusingly, both quiet and peaceful.

But not because my kids are off somewhere else.
And I say it, not with a sense of relief, but a sense of home, of connection, of contentment.

Peaceful, for me, has never been the result of an absence of my kids.
It is the presence of my family, and our connections with each other, that bring that feeling.
And even if someone is angry, or frustrated, we all recognize that as a temporary state, not our default way of being, so much so that a departure from that is unusual enough to comment on.

I think all the "peaceful and quiet" comments reflect cultural expectation more than they are a direct comment on someone's life with their kids. I think it is what parents feel they are supposed to say when the kids go off to school.
At least I hope that's the case.