OPINION: There's something quite disturbing about silence in a house that's home to toddlers. Every parent will know what I mean - that gut- gnawing moment when it suddenly dawns on you that it's quiet. Too quiet.
When I was left alone for a week earlier this year the silence was quite disconcerting so I just made sure there was always music playing. Problem solved.
Of course you can't have music up too loud when you've got little ones, just in case something happens. This means there's always background noise, usually of the crying, wailing, whinging, complaining or whining variety. And that's just Zach.
With Piper there's still noise, but she tends to be either making grunting noises (because she wants something), crashing noises (because she's got something), or crying noises (because Zach's realised she's got something because he heard the crashing sound and he's grabbed it back).
And then the cycle begins again.
So it's easy to see why silence would be something to be alarmed about. It's happening more often too, now that Piper is extremely mobile and quite quick. She can be up the hallway, pulling out wet- wipes before you've even clicked that she's gone. And she seems to move stealthily, like a ninja.
So you can understand why earlier this week, when I realised calm had descended upon the Hotton household, I was more than alarmed. They had been just outside the front door but it was too quiet. Picturing the mess I'd have to pick up, a quick scan of the house produced a startling discovery. My two children, little angels that they are, were playing together. Without bickering or squabbling. Peacefully. Together.
For Christmas, uncle Jim Jam and aunty Max got them a mini- picnic table that doubles as a sandpit. And here the pair of them were sitting, beside each other, happily playing in the sand with Zach's diggers and Piper's bath toys (little bucket things).
They were happy and content. Zach was sharing and Piper was happy to occasionally have sand poured over her head. It was almost utopia.
It's a bit unreasonable to expect two children to share objects fairly, all of the time. I know adults who struggle to share, so it's always a stretch to expect two little people, one of whom can't even communicate without grunts, to not only get along, but to share things. Ownership is everything to Zach, as it is with most toddlers. What's theirs is theirs; what's yours is theirs; and what you're looking at, even if it's not yours or theirs, will be theirs.
Yes, we're meant to be teaching them to share with others and to get along. But it's not the easiest thing to do. My conflict negotiation skills are regularly put to the test, which is why seeing them playing so nicely is such a momentous occasion.
I have great memories of being stretched out on the lounge floor playing with Lego with my brothers and I don't recall too many screaming matches. Well, not over the Lego at least - we would have had to put it away if that had been the case.
I don't expect Zach and Piper to get along all of the time, but it would be nice for them to look out for each other. That is what brothers and sisters do - join together, look out for each other and gang up on the parents.
Oh wait, what?
Mark Hotton is a fulltime journalist/fulltime dad
- The Southland Times