Monday, November 21, 2011

The case of the noisy neighbor- by which I mean, me

Waleed had a rough morning. By which I mean, I had a rough morning as he woke up at 6am screaming and wailing as babies sometimes tend to do. Teething, hunger, its hard to know, but when I went to check on him he was beyond exhausted, so I got him a bottle and settled him in the crib. Ten minutes later and an empty bottle flung across the room, the wails resumed at gusts of ninety miles per hour. Each time I picked him up he immediately passed out in my arms and each time I lay him back down- screams. Finally, I resorted to plan C and set him down in his crib and let him be- usually 5-10 minutes is all it takes and he's usually asleep. As this was not a usual morning, ten minutes later, resigned to a grumpy toddler, I went to get him only to hear:

thump

It was loud but in my groggy state I couldn't decipher where it came from. Living in a space inhabited by many I attributed it to a door slamming in the distance or someone closing the outdoor trashcan a bit too enthusiastically.

Out this evening, I ran into Bob.

Me: Hi Bob!
Bob: Hi. Did you hear me this morning?
Me: No, I don't think so. We might have been out.
Bob: No, you were definitely home.
Me: Then, no. I didn't hear it.
Bob: Oh good. I'm glad you didn't.
Me: Why, what happened?
Bob: I was banging the ceiling because, well, your son, he was crying pretty loud.
Me: Oh.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again, Bob is a nice guy. He really and honestly is. It's just that in the seven years he's lived in his downstairs condo, we're the first folks with a kid to move in. Certainly having the comparison of quieter times of long ago is a valid one to make. But. What can I do?

Bob assured me he's not disturbed on a daily basis, only when its loud noises or when he sometimes refuses bedtime. The crying was only an issue of ceiling-thumping-consequence because his daughter was there and sleeps in the room directly below Waleed's. Bob gave me his daughter's visitation schedule and we exchanged contact information to prevent further communication-via-bangs. But- and Bob understood this during our conversation- while he can let me know its happening- it's not like the TV is on too loud, or our riverdance revival group got a bit too boisterous- this is a baby. It's not like I enjoy hearing my son crying- the goal always is to get him to stop crying.

I minimize our sounds to the best of my ability. I wear slippers. I've bought softer toys. In the mornings we play in his room or the family room leaving the bedroom above where Bob sleeps alone to minimize noise. I take him to the playground for hours each day and we often have errands to run leaving the house vacant plus his naps and sleep total about 13-14 hours a day.

I talked to the landlord and she just laughed saying well that's just par for the course, when I lived there his baby girl cried at all hours of the night driving me absolutely crazy. It happens. 

I love the walkability of my new place. I adore the amazing people and the feeling of community. I love not having the burden of home ownership in a place I did not want to live anymore. I love K coming home earlier from work. I love the culture, the eats, and well pretty much everything about where I now live. But sometimes, on days like today, I really miss my house.

And I'll be baking cookies for tender ears tomorrow.

Any advice? While obviously I won't do cry it out anymore [as rare as that was to begin with], I'm trying to figure out how to live here without literally walking on tiptoes and asking my baby to do the same.  Most mornings he squeals and plays quite loudly in his crib with his stuffed animals before calling for us to get him. Do I stop this now? How much is one expected to live with? Any advice much appreciated.

21 comments:

Sprogblogger said...

Oh boy. Your neighbor kind of sounds like a passive-aggressive jerk. Babies cry. And really, that's just life in the, er, big city. Bob needs to figure out that all is not silence when walls are shared and get over it.

But I feel for you. While we were traveling I was wincing for my hotel-neighbors more than I was for my own lost sleep. I hate 'putting other people out'. But really. This guy sounds completely unreasonable. Banging on the ceiling? Really??

Jamila said...

Wow... banging on the ceiling?? Babies crying and people being loud is typical in apartment life. I agree with Sprogblogger, this guy sounds like a passive-aggressive jerk. Buy him a pair of ear plugs for himself and his daughter, and go on with your lives. You can't control Waleed and as long as you're being considerate with things you CAN control (which knowing you, I know you are), that's all you can and should do.

Aisha said...

Susan, Jamila, you guys think its passive-aggressive? I felt like he was being forthcoming about his issue, I just don't know how much I can help him with the issue- if only he knew exactly how much I do prevent maybe he'd realize I'm doing the best I can.

Jamila, lol @ the ear plug advice- Christmas IS just around the corner. . .

wayfarer said...

It's tough. I had really loud neighbors and they drove me nuts. However, they had power over what they did. All night parties etc. Rolling furniture on tile floors. But I never understand when people get upset about babies.

Anonymous said...

Long-term reader De-lurking:) Salaam-- We live in an apt in the SFBay area. Older building-- and the sound travels. Two boys ages 5 and 2. I spent a lot of time shushing and worrying. Starting making my older one antsy. The reality of shared living is kids make noise-- he will cry-- soon, he will have tantrums. You do what you can. Banging on the ceiling is NEVER okay in my book. I think one has to be reasonably fair-- for example- no jumping repeatedly on the floor by your son at 10pm or 5am-- but one has to live his/her life. You can't stop a child from being a kid-- but you can give him and yourself guidelines-- we ask our kids not to run and stomp after 6ish and no loud noises before 9am. I would give your neighbor a written heads up if a rough period is coming up for you guys-- let him know the hours that will probably be the loudest, e.g., teething, etc. Offer a gift card to Starbucks or something if you'd like, but he's going to have to deal with it, I think. It is what it is in apt/condo living!

Julia Munroe Martin said...

I feel so bad for you! Seriously? Banging on the ceiling for a crying baby? He has a serious problem. What's next, you can't cough if you have a cold? What could you possibly have done?! It's called life, Bob, deal with it! Did you ever make that voodoo doll? :) (p.s. If the landlord doesn't have a problem, then I wouldn't! And that's who I'd bake cookies for her, not Bob! She sounds like a *really* nice person!)

Dan Martin said...

As a *very* light sleeper, a former apartment dweller, and a Dad of three, I think you guys (the commenters, not Aisha) are being way too hard on Bob. Aisha says he's a nice guy, and relates a very civil conversation. Which one of us has never gotten irritated enough to do something dumb like banging on a ceiling? Besides, Bob's "oh good, I'm glad you didn't" suggests to me that he felt bad about it later. This is not a case for antagonism.

Earplugs might not be the answer; they're horribly uncomfortable...I've tried to wear them to sleep and found the pain caused by the plugs in my ear canal just replaced the noise in keeping me awake.

Aisha's suggesting a very neighborly thing by baking cookies. Relationships go a long way in these sorts of situations that have no ready solution. They also are a good living-out of an ethic I've seen you express in the past, Aisha. Don't be discouraged from neighborliness!

As to the noise, it can only be mitigated, not eliminated. Babies are, after all, noisy organisms! Soft surfaces help, whether blanket hangings on the walls or soft play areas. But in the end I think both of you doing your best to be good neighbors...you being mindful of the noise and Bob being mindful of the stress of being a parent...is about the best either of you can do. I commend you for caring.

kmina said...

I have lived many, many years in a block of flats wih paper thin walls (quality was not high onthe list when those building were being built) and I know how it is to hear everytime your neighbour takes a bath, for example. Or how the party downstairs is going on.
We once had a front door that needed slamming to be closed (weird thing) and my neighbour would always wait for me to come from work and make a huge scandal because I'd slam it. I let her close it, just for her to see that she couldn't without slamming. She tried five times and couldn't, of course. She got evenmore upset and left - slamming the door, of course. She called the police when we were having a girls weekend and we were 4 girls baking cookies in the kitchen. The policemen loved our cookies. When I moved 8 years later, she cried and made me give my address "to keep in touch", because I was such a good neighbour and who knew how the new ones would be. bonkers, heh?!
Bottom line is: it is what it is. You can try to minimize the noise, but there will be noise and that is it. Sometimes it will be louder than others. Sometimes his daughter will be sick and would sleep at 10 am when W rides the couch. Whatever. When you meet, keep it friendly, try to excuse yourself when you know W was more active, but don't live your life fearing what your neighbour would say. And yes, cookies always help. :-)

Simeen Alikhan Kazmi said...

I have to agree with Dan-- I think the crowd here is out of line with the righeous indignation-- he's not a tyrant! Bob sounds like he's being understanding and nice, and is really just making you aware that he's being disturbed-- that too in what I consider a polite way. Yes, everyone knows that babies cry and make noise, but come on-- not everyone has to deal with it. I can see how it would be frustrating for someone not used to the noise. I can see it being frustrating for me too if I was in Bob's shoes. It doesn't mean I'm a baby-hater or an evil person- I just like quiet, and I'm used to quiet.

I am sympathetic to Bob and I don't think he's been out of line based on what Aisha has said this time and about all their previous encounters.

Aisha- I think you're doing whatever you can to be considerate, so good job. You're being polite and doing what is in your power to be a thoughtful neighbor. What more can you do? I don't think even Bob expects you to do more than you're doing. And cookies never hurt anyone. But I don't think we need to call the inquisition on Bob-- it's not like he's beating on your door day and night and being rude when he sees you. Cut the guy a break, people.

Cylinda said...

From my years of apartment living, I think you're going about it the right way and doing as much as you can REASONABLY be expected to do. You're much more considerate than many neighbors, and hopefully Bob appreciates that. I think consideration for others is a good thing, but there comes a point where you have to balance the desire to be considerate with the reality of living your life. People are noisy, life is noisy, babies are extra noisy. You don't have to be a parent to understand this, but as a parent Bob should be extra sympathetic to this fact.

Like I said, I think you've taken reasonable steps to curb the amount of noise you generate, and that's all that can be expected. If Bob is still perturbed, I question whether or not he is being reasonable. You can't be expected to stop living just for the sake of Bob having perfect peace and tranquility. Dealing with neighbor's noise is part and parcel of what you sign up for when you agree to living with shared walls. Bob knew (or should have known) what he was getting into. Don't beat yourself up about it - I think Bob is lucky to have you as a neighbor!

Aisha said...

Wayfarer, thanks for the reassurances and nice to hear from you :)

Anon, thanks for delurking! SF is the most amazing city in the world but the housing situation is a bit tough isn't it?! the fact that you are doing it gives me hope though because i honestly began feeling guilty like I had no business in a condo with a child- but your'e doing it and so insh'Allah I can find a way to make it work for me too. Thanks for the advice about noise time frames- I think that is very reasonable. I just wish my guy wouldn't wake up at 5am- with the tight space i this house its not easy to keep him noise-free. Thanks again your advice gave me a lot to mull over as you are speaking from first hand experience!

Aisha said...

Julia, lol, yeah but I do feel bad for Bob- he's not a jerk but I do wonder why he's chosen to live in a downstairs place in a building he KNOWS has horrible sound-control for SEVEN YEARS. It must be bearable for the most part?

Dan Martin, thanks for your comment and the other side of the coin, Bob's perspective. Like you said, I feel for Bob, I really and truly do- at the same time I can't do much about it if W does decide to cry at night. I mean, its great to have his daughter's visitation schedule but am I to hand this to my son to let him know the days he can scream and wail and which days he can't? It's a bit difficult for all involved but you're right, one can only do the best they can do, and cookies and such offerings go a long way.

Aisha said...

Kmina, how horrid!!!! I have to ask- did her behavior prompt you to ultimately move out????

Simeen, no he's definitely not beating on my door to express anger- we ran into each other and he mentioned it. While I get that he wants quiet, I do feel slightly tired of literally tiptoeing and stressing every time W shriekes or screams because at the end of the day, shared condo-living means that noise will travel and somtimes it will be annoying especially when you choose to live on the first floor. Still, I really think he understands and the cookies baking in the oven at the moment will hopefully go a long way to quelling resentment that may be there. Thanks for your take!

Aisha said...

Cylinda, thanks, your comment felt like a big old hug, and I appreciate that! I am doing the best I can and there will be days he will want to make voodoo dolls of us- but I can't do more than I am right now. :(

Anonymous said...

that sucks!!!!!! :(

kmina said...

Now, she was not the reason I moved out. I lived there eight years. :-)
I am well versed in the neighbourly passive-aggressive and Bob is not so. He's just bad luck, but it's not your fault, children are just children and I guess his daughter is past this stage, he was so thankful, and now he gets to share some of W's moments and he is not all that happy. But it is life and you are doing your best. Stop fretting, and enjoy your life. There is nothing more you can do.

Joyce@MommyTalkShow said...

As a dad, Bob should be a bit more understanding. Apartment & condo living is NOT quiet. Essentially, you live in the same house with people but just have a different front door.
I'm glad your landlord realized Bob needs to get over it too.
I'm sure when his daughter was 18 months old, she wasn't as quiet as a church mouse either. Children cry, laugh and play loudly. Sometimes at the most inconvenient times for everyone who is around them.
Bob is lucky he doesn't live below us. A.J. runs sprints down the hall whenever he feels like it and maybe sleeps 12 hours total on a good day; from 8-6 overnight and maybe from 2-4 nap.
You're a good mama!

Aisha said...

Thx Anon :(

Kmina, well said indeed-- wow eight years with a crazy person who calls you for cooking cookies!! You have great weight in showing me that you practice what you preach in letting this go and going on with life :) Thanks hun!!!

Joyce, thanks for your comment!!! You put it so well, yes, its like living in the same house with different doors- that lock. Thanks for your assurances and for your perspective.

katery said...

oh my god, that SUCKS. i hate to put it that way as it sounds kind of classless but i can;t think of any other way to put it. i would hate to be worrying about a neighbor when i am already worried about my crying toddler and probably quite frazzled as well. good luck aisha, i am with you in spirit.

Aisha said...

Kate, thanks as always for your sympathy and encouragement. I appreciate you as always :)

Tarmac said...

Aisha, I am also a long time lurker or is that loiterer?! My problem is more horizontal than vertical, as yours is! Allow me to colour my canvas here - we both neighbours live in houses with 3 bedrooms. I live with my ma, pa, wife and bambino (who is 2.5). He lives with himself, his wife and a cat.

About a year ago he knocked on our door to complain about my little boy and how his crying at night keeps him awake and has done so for the past year and a half He wanted us to muzzle our baby or maybe put clothes pegs to purse his lips shut. It is set in concrete that babies cry, they say only 2 things are certain in life - "death and taxes" re-write THAT rulebook cause it is "death, taxes and babies barling!" The day when babies stay hushed to order is something that only evolution can change. And that is still highly unlikely. Talking about cookies, that is how this one crumbles, I thought! "babies cryyyyyyyyy" I cried to myself trying to emit brainwaves across the wall in vain!

I then flipped the coin and thought what if it was the other way around and naturally I would want quiet and restful sleep before another hard slog at the office. I thought it was my human right as watching wind-down tv after work is my human right [sorry-wife reference!] I held all my brotherly horses to a screeching dustfilled stop and thought NO. No way - why the heck does he have to sleep in the room that joins ours when he has TWO other bedrooms empty and not joining any of our other walls. The selfish so and so and grrr.

Anyways I said to my wife to try and get my baby's routine going so he can sleep earlier and therefore cry less. There's always some reason or other the timing thing didn't happen. Let me not go into that right now LoL

What happened a few months back was interesting. This neighbour fellow was obviously looking for an opportunity to corner me and he took his chance. I had just got into my car and was reversing when I heard a taptap on my car window. So I lowered it and he was there, mind you I never even say hello to him when I see him but was now forced into conversation with him. He told me that he was fed up with the noise and that he had complained to the Council about the noise levels and was told that there was nothing they could do about it. Erm, I think they said to him - "He's a baby, babies cry, Sir!" So he said to me look I need to go to work early so please can you get your baby to sleep earlier - before 10:30pm (don't ask!) So I said OK I will try my best. He then went on to say that I should get a rug for my bedroom cause he can also hear footsteps and they disturb him. I told him that there was carpet already in the room and he didn't believe me - he insisted on me getting a rug to abate the footstepping noises too . I got quite angry and said 'You wanna come in and have a look that I've got carpet in there' He just shrugged to that and said "wellllll". When I told my wife this she said You see I tell you not to walk around the place so heavy at night - and then I realised she did have a point and now make a habit of tippytoeing a bit ! These old houses are very creaky!

Now the thing is that we get the little man into bed and if he cries we say to him "sssshhhhhhh man knock knock karega" then my wife or myself, as per the routine for good or bad, do a little "tap-tap" on the headboard or the side panels as if neighbour man is knocking on the walls for the noise to stop LoL

I wish you the best and offer this thought. You have done all the right things in your situation and he seems a reasonable man aswell, you have gone as far as to take a schedule of his daughters timings off him, that is a lot of leaway on your part. Next step cookies. Just don't feel like you HAVE to pander to him anymore - You and your family have a right to live a life aswell, if that includes a bit of acoustics then that's the way it's gotta crumble.

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