People have commented to me on my children. They usually don't say "What erudite youngsters you have given birth to, and how intelligent they are." Equally, they don't say "Oh, my, how attractive these young people are. Of course, they take after you, Danae."
Those comments would, of course, be true. Valid. Positive. Uplifting. Pleasant to listen to.
No, what has been said is this: "Your children are so quiet."
Being fond of analysis, my mind goes into overdrive when something like the above statement is uttered. I think, "Oh, sweet cauliflowers, my children are quiet. They are not noisy. They do not yell, swear, scream at earth-shattering levels of decibels, they do not feel the need to communicate with people five kilometres away by shouting full-out at them. They do not grab every opportunity to have every stranger stare malevolently at them because they are inappropriately LOUD and riotous. They take after me. I talk when I have something to say; although I have been known to rattle along or indulge in a hefty rant. I listen. I use inner and outer ears to listen.
My children have moments when they talk and it's when they want to talk. I applaud the fact that they aren't like our neighbours - thankfully, they're moving - whose (large) garden abuts onto ours and who have raised two children to scream unmercifully at the top of their capacious lungs at any and all stimuli, bang bin lids and any other intensely loud objects together, and act as the local drop-off point for what seems like thousands of other immoderate kids who are overpoweringly, head-thumpingly, gratuitously and achingly and consistently noisy.
We are generally quiet people. The world does not like quiet people. It respects listeners, but not much. It reveres shriekers and yellers and dinners (those who make a din). A favourite saying in my part of the world is 'Shy bairns get nowt' and, by the sound of it, there aren't many shy bairns around now.
When some woman says "Your children are so quiet" I know that she is making some kind of complaint. Why? What is to do with you if my children don't sound and act like yours, Mrs? I don't complain that your children are vying with the local busy airport to pollute the world with more racket so why comment on my children's peacefulness?
Really, we'd be better off living in another part of the world. Somewhere where thinking is respected and peace is encouraged. Where you yourself are valued, not for how much clamour and uproar you can funnel into other people's ringing ears.
I'll tell you a little secret. In school reports, my child was said to be quiet. I reacted with annoyance but I should have held my peace. I should have said, "Yes, I'm sure you are thankful for the thoughtful ones. They are models of good behaviour for your inconsiderate, annoying, abrasive other pupils, aren't they? Be glad that they are in your class."
Cherish the tranquil non-screamers for they will inherit the world because the government, sooner or later, will find a way to bring in a noise tax.
Until then, if you, Mrs, are tempted to criticise my children because they don't sound as cacophonous as a henyard, I say one thing to you and that is "BE QUIET!!!!!!!!!!!!!"