We have never really prescribed to that idea, and these days in the U.S., few do. Somehow though, upon arriving in Belgium, my husband and I both independently seemed to decide that our son had to immediately and unpreparedly become a quieter child. Each visit to a public place in the first days became a constant shushing event. “Be quiet!” “Not so loud!” “Use your inside voice!”. We felt like broken records and it was not working. I kept looking around, hoping there were some other noisy Belgian children to distract from ours. Once, we were getting lunch and there was a child who spoke just a little louder than his parents and I had a moment of hope.
I’m not sure where we got this idea, that he had to be quiet- I mean the truth is our child is loud and could stand for some volume control in any country. When he was really into Elvis we even resorted to asking him to use his “Wise men say” voice instead of his “Hound dog” voice but to no avail. In Ithaca, we lived in the woods with no neighbors to bother and it seemed like other kids were loud too. People in Wegman’s would smile and laugh at his antics. In Belgium, I think we were afraid of being noticed as the loud, obnoxious Americans. We wanted to fly under the radar, not stand out and our son is one variable we can’t control in that respect.
After a few days of this stressful and fruitless effort to quiet him-which essentially equated to trying to change his personality overnight, I decided to let it go. Yes, they might stare (though I haven’t noticed that), they might even comment (none yet as far as I know). We are out of place here right now and we will be-until maybe we figure out how to get around without a car, learn to speak some Flemish, figure out what witloof are, and meet some other Belgian children. And in time, I like to believe it will come together. Our son will learn how to behave in this new culture and hopefully, so will we.