A couple weeks before I had J, I was in Target with every single other pregnant woman, and had wandered away from my cart in the baby clothes section. There was a mom with a newborn in the same area, whom I hadn’t really noticed in between the being miserable-pregnant and lamenting the lack of cute clothes available for little boys. After a couple minutes of browsing, the newborn started fussing. Not much, and not loudly, but enough that comforting needed to happen. It was then that, in my hormone-induced haze, I rushed over to where the baby was, absolutely expecting to see that it was my baby that needed help (even though my baby was probably hiccuping in my belly at that exact moment). Because I had lost touch with reality? Or, because I was primed to pay attention to the cues of a baby, and why should it matter if it wasn’t even my baby to pay attention to?? Thankfully, I stopped before I attempted to nurse someone else’s baby, and no one called the cops. Yay!
It’s been over three years since that creeper incident — not that it was the only incident, I’m talking to you, parents of a 3-day old who were standing in the pacifier aisle with a glazed-over look in your eyes… I hope the litany of tips on choosing the “right” one was helpful — and I’ve recently developed a theory **.
We all know of Pavlov’s dogs, right? The ones that were trained to salivate at the bell because they had been taught that food would be coming next. Or, The Office version, where Jim restarted his computer multiple times a day and offered Dwight a mint immediately after the Windows start-up noise. Then, after a few days, Jim started it up and watched Dwight’s hand shoot out to get a mint just out of habit. I think it’s like that, except you don’t have the time or mental energy to go through a training program, so you just automatically know noises and can tell if they pose a threat.
Since no one with two kids and no nanny has time to actually conduct a study, I’ll just give you some more anecdotal evidence:
1 – Anyone who has “slept” in a hospital room with a newborn can attest to, A – you don’t really sleep, and B – you jump at any noise the baby makes. If even one drop of saliva/spitup hits the basinet sheet, you are all over that shit. You’ll jump out of the bed 17 minutes after pushing that baby out without remembering the epidural that’s still half working, the IVs they’re using to pump you full of fluids since your blood pressure tanked so bad that you almost dropped him/her on the floor just seconds after giving birth, the carnage that is the lower half of your body, and the tylenol with codeine that is helping you forget about the rest of it. And then, you fall on your ass, wake the baby that won’t sleep for another 3 years, and your husband pushes the call sign to have 3 nurses help you back into bed, all because of a drop of spittle and your ultrasonic hearing.
2 – Pretty soon after C was born, we had our next door neighbors over for happy hour. I set out a charcuterie board and we sat in the living room, balanced our gin & tonics, and tried to chat like adults, all the while attempting to keep J’s hands out of the hummus (spoiler alert: he got a handful straight out of the middle). After all of the pretentious piles of snacks had been groped by preschooler hands, J wandered off to smear humus and baked brie on every surface of the house. I was so relieved to have even the smallest respite from yelling things like, “no double dipping!” every 12 seconds that I didn’t even notice him going into the kitchen, much less remember that I hadn’t put away the things that I had used to assemble my impress-the-sophisticated-people tray — including the butcher knife. (FYI – don’t get too anxious. I wouldn’t be laughing at this story if it ended in tragedy.) I was telling the neighbors what I’m sure was a riveting and hilarious story, when all of a sudden a heard a sort of ringing, and it dawned on me — that’s the sound of the edge of the butcher knife sliding against the counter top… So, naturally, I yelled, “HOLY SHIT! THAT’S THE BUTCHER KNIFE!” K rescued J from certain doom, and everyone was very impressed with my near-superhero skills (as they damn well should’ve been).
3 – This one has happened several times, or at least a variation of it. All I’m going to say is: unlocking deadbolts and opening outside doors. I can hear that telltale sliding of metal and the little click that the latch makes from the other side of the house with the music turned up and the AC blaring.
4 – Lastly, just the fact that the sound of silence is the scariest sound a parent can hear is enough to prove this theory all on it’s own: not are you only primed to identify sounds, you also are highly attuned to the absence of sounds. After a few minutes of life without toys screeching, or your preschooler loudly impersonating a fire truck, you realize that life as you know it might be over. Especially if you’re on the phone…
So. Enough anecdotal evidence to support my parents-develop-superhero-auditory-capabilities theory? The next time you hear the soft “ka-boosh” of your cell phone being dropped in the toilet, or the faint “tick” of the entertainment cabinet door opening, or you’re able to differentiate the moving of furniture from a toy car being driven all over the walls, remember: these are valuable skills. Evolution gave you those bionic ears. Use them with pride.
Someday we will be those people to the left — sitting peacefully on a bench, listening to the squawking of birds, each other’s calm words, and mostly not noticing families with toddlers until they pull on our dog’s ears. I wouldn’t skip these days of beautiful chaos for the world, but do look forward to the day we can say with vague curiosity, “huh – I wonder what that noise is that couldn’t possibly mean the destruction of our entire home, sanity, or way of life…”
**P.S. – this theory does not even touch the supersonic reaction times that parents develop for those times when your kid trips on a massive hole in the ground and face-plants into a garden shed; or the reflex to run towards crises like a can of tonic exploding all over the kitchen, instead of shrieking as you flee the scene; or the sudden rewiring of your brain to use phrases like “goodness gracious!” rather than a long string of words that would make the saltiest of sailors blush. Those things are important, too, but should be covered in their own theory/post.