Dear Carolyn: I live in an apartment building and a family with four kids lives in the apartment above us. They are so loud all the time and it drives me insane! My husband and I can hear them screaming, singing, crying, jumping and running. Sometimes it sounds like a marching band is practicing up there!
We just had a baby and I find that I can’t nap because of all the noise. We’re not friends with them and haven’t really spoken to them much, but I’m ready to leave a note on their door to tell them to quiet down! Is there another way to handle this that isn’t so passive-aggressive and won’t create a very awkward situation? Do we have to just manage?
Need Some Peace and Quiet
“A family with four kids lives in the apartment above us.”
What more do you need to say? It’s loud.
In fact, unless these apartments were built to absorb sound, you were in for a jumpy-singy-stompy ride if you had that many adults living on your head.
So before you light any fuses with door notes, please take a second to compose the letter they’re mentally writing right now: “We’ve already got our hands full with four kids, and now nobody’s sleeping because of our downstairs neighbor’s baby. Is there a polite way we can ask them to respond to his cries a bit sooner?” Indeed, if you have downstairs neighbors yourself, it might not be long before you can speak firsthand to hearing a broom-handle thunk to their ceiling.
I don’t envy your circumstances, upstairs or down, and know the torture that is sleep deprivation.
But the torture is circumstantial and you’re treating it like it’s deliberate. When you ask them to quiet down their kids, you’re implying they could be tending to their kids more or better but are choosing not to — and please imagine how judged you would feel if a neighbor blindly criticized your work at this most intimate job.
So please reframe this from “our family vs. neighbor family” into “well-meaning families vs. the building.” That’s your real problem — that your walls and floors are thin enough to allow the song of a child — or the cry of a baby — to pass through.
From there you can choose just to accept noise as a fact of apartment life and take noninvasive steps to address it (white noise, thick carpets, moving your bedroom to a quieter part of the apartment).
Or, you can enlist the help of your neighbors: Knock on their door bearing a home-baked gift, and say, “OK, I can hear everything your kids do, which means you’ve been treated to a crying baby every night. Have you found ways to compensate for the thin walls and floors around here?”
With no “them,” it’s just “us.”
Even if you don’t change a single thing about either of your apartments, establishing a friendly rapport will help fix the noise problem — for the simple reason that the noises of people you like are dramatically less obnoxious than the noises of people you loathe.
Bonus: You’re a rookie parent with a live-action parenting wiki upstairs. An open channel to veteran ideas is its own path to less-troubled sleep.
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