Cabin fever

I’ve lived in various apartments for nearly 15 years.  As a parent, I’ve only ever been an apartment dweller.  That comes with good and bad points.  On the downside, there is a near-constant worry about how much the kids are disturbing the neighbors, whether because they’re crying inconsolably as an infant at 2 a.m., waking up and dumping out bins of toys at 7:30, or screaming about not wanting to take a bath at 9 p.m. (exacerbated by living in Austria where we keep our windows open for so much of the year).  We also have no yard, so we have no quick and easy way to get outside for a few minutes.  Going outside always means “going out”, with all of the hassle which that entails.  On the other hand, we have no yard work or exterior home maintenance projects to take up our weekends, nor do we have to worry about how stinky the dirty diapers will be by trash day, since we just take them to the dumpster on the other side of our building, and that gets emptied several times each week.

We’ve always done well parenting in an apartment.  Without easily accessible outdoor space, we let our kids do some things indoors (running, riding bikes, blowing bubbles) that other parents wouldn’t dream of.  Our current place offers a nice little terrace where the kids can use sidewalk chalk or play with bubbles without getting looks from grumpy neighbors, which helps.  We do our best to keep the noise down, and I guess we’re doing ok, since no one has complained in the 2 years that we’ve been here (or perhaps our neighbors are just suffering in silence).  In our last apartment, we had several neighbors with kids about the same ages as ours (or at least near enough that they could remember what it was like and stir up a little empathy) but here, even in a much bigger building, we’re one of only a few families with small children.  And, being in Austria, people are just generally quieter and well behaved, so we definitely feel the pressure sometimes.

Just recently, I think the kids may have reached their limit with this arrangement.  In the past few months, the boys have gotten to an age and energy level that makes me wish we had a yard we could just pop out into.  We are also suddenly finding it very difficult to keep the boys quiet, settled and behaving in the house at critical “keep quiet” times, like first thing on Sunday morning.  Lately, they’re getting harder to contain.  There’s more volume, more energy, more climbing, more wildness.

We’re still managing — we’ve started to use the living room as a quiet zone on weekend mornings, with closed doors, closed windows and lots of quiet tv to try and contain the sound.  But for our next place, some kind of outside space, even a small one, will be a priority.  (Although, I imagine in a town house or house with a small yard, there still wouldn’t be outdoor playtime on weekend mornings.  Maybe the answer, rather than a yard, is central air, closed windows, and no downstairs neighbors.)

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