Apartment residents share space vertically and horizontally, and apartment materiality shapes their experiences of sound and space. Across diverse contexts, rapid urban population growth has prompted a shift towards higher-density dwellings – often a pronounced departure from cultural norms of detached, suburban housing. Yet little is known about the everyday emotional experiences of apartment residents. This paper draws on insights gathered from families, with children, living in apartments in Sydney, Australia – a city undergoing profound densification. Developers typically market high-rise apartments as a transitional housing form for singles and couples. However, a sizeable number of families with children now live in apartments, and as our findings suggest, they struggle with expectations that children (and their sounds) do not belong. These families' experiences of high-density living reveal how the materiality of sound and built form interact with cultural norms to shape how apartment spaces are understood and inhabited. So too, how the emotions of everyday life co-construct apartment spaces and social relations (both within families and between neighbours). Physical proximity leads to tensions around acoustics and privacy, while apartment materiality creates an emotional dilemma between being a good parent and a good neighbour. Sound can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and stress. We discuss such travails, as well as families’ spatial, temporal and material coping strategies. Cultural and technical norms, we contend, must shift to support families with children in the consolidating vertical city.