Every parent has got that “thing” their kids do that drives them to the edge of their sanity. That thing that you just can’t tolerate for whatever reason. For some parents, it’s boogers. For others, it’s lying or tattling. For even others, it can be backtalk or the kids not promptly cleaning up their dinner dishes.
My thing happens to be screaming.
And I’m not talking about the playful shrieks that happen when kids are having a great time (I’m not a monster). I’m not even talking about the yelling that happens when kids are overtired and cranky in the grocery store. I’m talking about screaming for the sake of screaming. The pure letting loose of that primal sound that belongs only in horror movies or nightmares.
That piercing, high-pitched sound goes right through my body and makes my whole fight-or-flight system go into overdrive, and I start looking for the nearest paramedic. I have a literal visceral reaction to screaming. It’s my “thing.” Therefore, my kids know that they can’t scream unless they are being stolen by a stranger, or are facing some sort of wild animal, or have fallen into a well, or something major.
I wasn’t allowed to scream as a child, and yes, I’m aware of how this has probably affected my own parenting choices. But when I was growing up, screaming was non-negotiable. I lived in the middle of nowhere, and that sound needed to be saved for moments when I was truly in trouble. I never had to use that long-repressed scream for real danger, thankfully, but I knew that I had it if I needed it. My parents wouldn’t just think I was practicing for my role in The Exorcist, they would know that I was in trouble and that I needed their help fast.
Now I’m raising two kids in the forest, where there are bears and mountain lions and roaming dogs, and even surprisingly aggressive squirrels at times. My kids play outside by themselves a lot because I work from home. I can hear them and see them most of the time, but I can’t predict if a rabid coyote is going to decide to come tearing through the yard at any given moment. I need to have that scream as a safety valve that I hope they never ever have to use. They know that they can play and laugh and shout, but if they scream, I will come running. So there better be a good reason, or Mama will be pissed.
I’m always astounded that screaming doesn’t bother some parents at all because of what it does to me. At the park recently, a little girl was sitting at the top of the play structure screaming her brains out, and her mother sat there chatting with her friends like nothing was happening. I thought I was going to have a heart attack because the child sounded like she was being attacked. My heart was racing. I couldn’t help but think, what if she was being attacked, or stolen? How would her mother even know?
So, parents who aren’t bothered by kids’ screaming, I have so many questions. Do you let your kids scream because they are kids, and screaming is a part of being a kid? Do you feel like you would be repressing a part of them? Do you not even hear it after a while? Do you meditate a lot or something? Because my ears are bleeding over here.
Maybe I need to calm the hell down — I get that. But I think that by now, the screaming thing is such a part of my repressed psyche that I won’t be able to unravel it all without a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy.
But I also don’t think I want to. My kids don’t need to scream. I don’t think I’m taking anything valuable away from their childhood by making sure they have a way to alert me if they are in danger, especially when they are out in the woods, in nature, having the time of their life without me hovering.
I don’t think I’m repressing anything in them other than that they eventually won’t like it when their kids scream either. And I’m okay with that.
They can howl at the moon, they can sing at the top of their lungs, they can play their musical instruments until I have a migraine, and they can even scream into a freaking pillow if they need to let that shit out. But my kids need to save those real screams for real danger situations. And I need to live without adrenaline constantly running through my veins.