Screamy Time

The Author and Son Spending Some Quality Time Outdoors | Courtesy B. Maschal Private Collection

Guys, karma comes back to bite (hard). This is a lesson I have repeatedly been dealt throughout my life. In this post, I will recount the most recent example. Our Brooklyn abode is a building made of concrete, steel and glass. Unlike many other NYC apartments I have called home over the years, noise from the neighboring apartments is seldom heard as a result of its construction design and materials. This was true until about a year ago when an apartment on another floor (and the other side of the building) would routinely emit the sounds of a kid screaming bloody murder forĀ  the space of about an hour almost every night starting around 7 PM. It wasn’t the type of screaming like the kid was being abused or anything. It was like a kid who was so tired that they were just generally pissed off at everything and wanted everyone in the world to know it.

The first few weeks of hearing the neighbor’s kid’s nightly meltdowns, B and I kind of joked about it and playfully dubbed the event as “screamy time.” Several weeks later when it was still a daily occurrence, we found it less funny. There was an episode where B was on the phone with a client, where the client could actually hear screamy time through the phone and inquired if everyone was okay over here. This incident prompted us to install soundproofing on the outside of our hallway door. The soundproofing measure definitely helped, but the more hearty outbursts were still pretty audible.

After several months of routine daily screamy time (luckily we were also able to spend a considerable amount of time upstate during this period), it became less frequent, and eventually stopped altogether shortly before the arrival of our own child. We left the sound proofing on the door, because we rarely use that door, and anyway, it looks kinda cool.

Our little guy was probably home with us for a little over two weeks when we learned first hand about what some parents have dubbed “the witching hour.” The first time we experienced our infant son screaming at the top of his lungs inconsolably and for no apparent reason, it was unnerving to say the least. After talking to several of our friends who are also parents, we learned that yes, this is a thing. One of B’s friends who has two boys told us that they both went through a phase that lasted several months where they would lose their minds for about two hours every evening. These are the types of things about having kids that people don’t really talk about so much.

One would think that being able to anticipate such a daily occurrence (it is apparently universally a thing that happens around the same time of day) would make it easy to prepare for and mitigate the effects of it. Yes, and no. It’s true that after a certain level of experience one can develop an order of operations to run through when it happens, to see which (if any) soothing/distraction technique might help shorten the episode that particular day. But there is nothing that can fully prepare a person to have a kid screaming at full volume, so loud that it seems like it is directly in your face/ear. Indeed, so loud that one cannot hear what their partner is saying as they try to assist, nor can they hear you. Ten minutes of this can seem like 10 hours.

As I have navigated through this witching hour experience, I can’t help but recall all of the times where I sat on flights silently judging parents who were unable to calm their screaming kids. Also in the forefront of my mind was how annoyed I recently allowed myself to become on those nights when screamy time was happening at my neighbor’s apartment. Oof! Needless to say, I have been experiencing a lot of retroactive compassion for parents in that situation. Thankfully, the fact that little kids are so incredibly cute (especially in the eyes of their parents) helps a lot when dealing with this kind of stuff.

I’m happy to report that screamy time for our little guy has become a bit less of a regular thing. And when it does happen, it seems to be less intense and less protracted. Fingers crossed, for the sake of our sanity and that of our neighbors, we will continue to progress in that direction. It would be nice to have a bit of reprieve before we tackle some of the future struggles I have been warned about, such as “the 4 month regression” and “teething.” Let’s go!

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