Monday, May 12, 2008

Phantom Cry Syndrome

Spend enough time taking care of children and it becomes an inescapable part of your psyche. It makes it way into your dreams in sometimes overt, sometimes subtle ways. Last month I dreamed that Clara was trying to get Kate to swim in a pond where a shark was swimming. I'm no psychoanalyst but I think such dreams show I have some pretty deep fears about the safety of my children. Even when your children are at school or you have a babysitter you are not free from what I have found is the most common form of parental paranoia: Phantom Cry Syndrome. Randomly, out of nowhere, you will hear your child's cry.

PCS can happen anywhere at any time. This afternoon it happened to me in my car, even though I knew I was alone. I heard my child's cry - it was barely there, as if on the very edge of my hearing - and I jerked my head towards the sound. The sound had passed and I was left to laugh at my own foolishness. The children were with the babysitter, you nimrod. As I continued driving I found the source of the sound: A driver had his window down and I could just hear his radio. But since I had no context for that slight sound the first time I heard it, my parental instincts kicked in and turned it into a child's cry.

I've experienced PCS in the gym, where the slight squeal of a nautilus machine moving on the other side of the room can sound like a cry. I've turned my head at the sound of car brakes, a high pitched laugh from afar, or just about any sound that is just loud enough and just the right timbre or pitch to approximate a cry. My mind will fill in the information that the cry is my own child's. It's not a rational response, but for parents who experience PCS it shows just how heavy the responsibility of protecting the little ones in our care weighs on us.

I just made PCS up. But the next time it happens to you, you'll know what to call it.


Anonymous said...

I bet the next time I Google PCS your name will be at the top of the list. Glad to see your electricity is back!

Haley said...

I have PCS every time I take a shower - it is so annoying! I turn the shower off to listen and everything is completely quiet... babies are asleep. Thank you for helping me name this disorder - do you know any treatment?

dave said...

You successfully used the word nimrod in your blog, Bravo!

Skye said...

Oh my gosh, I thought it was just me. This happens to me all the time.

Todd Jordan said...

I can relate to this. I really experienced it the most when helping raise our granddaughters. I'd have it out places, every noise was a kid's cry.

I love your title btw, Phantom Cry Syndrome.

Darcy said...

I found your blog from simplemom. I have experienced PCS four times just since my kids went down for a nap 2 hours ago. Each time I peek they are just as sweetly sleeping as they were before.
This post and your Poop one are hysterical. Good job of putting into words what we all experience!
You have inspired me to create PCVS- Phantom Child Voice Syndrome. Every time I get away from my daughter I continue to hear her voice everywhere!
Hope you don't mind I am going to have to link to you and post about this on my blog!

Joel Bittle said...

Welcome, new readers. I'm glad I'm not the only one suffering from PCS. As far as a treatment, Haley, the best I've found is when my wife comes home from work and I have a couple of beers. Of course I still hear the cries, I just don't care anymore.

Dave, I figured you'd appreciate that.

Skye is one of my favorite green bloggers, by the way. You can see her stuff here: Here

Thanks for the post, Todd. It was good to meet you at the STL Bloggers mtg.

And thanks Darcy, I'm glad I could inspire your blog post. I looked at your blog and my daughter Kate saw the picture of your son and said, "that's me!" They do look alike.