I like my quiet time. Time when my mind can pick a direction and follow it for more than, say, 30 seconds and I can start to feel my body and mind rest and open. As a stay-at-home mom with two littles, there isn’t a lot of quiet in my life. My most important category of parenting tricks is quiet time. Quiet time as we understand it is not play time. Instead, it’s time in which everyone in the house is happily doing quiet, individual activities. Everyone in our family needs quiet time during the day and we do our best to make sure it’s part of our daily rhythm, usually just after lunch.
Peanut is five. He’ll be six soon and just started the first grade. At the moment he is going through what one of my books (yes, I’m that kind of mom) accurately described as mini-puberty. We’re toggling between flinging accusations and utterly sweet on a moment to moment basis. He is a sensitive kid who needs to turn off once in a while in order to recover and re-energize. Pumpkin is three and wants to play or help. Helping is a great alternative to play because she gets to be right next you and continue to ask a question every 30 seconds. To illustrate, when she gets her little chair to stand next to me at the counter, she explains, “If you need help you can say it.” That’s the sign that she intends to plant herself right there until I need help. She hasn’t napped in at least a year and is on the go from 7:00 in the morning until 7:30 at night. Without some quiet time to add a real break to our day, things just fall apart.
Quiet time started when Peanut was two and refused to nap. I once spent three hours trying to get him to sleep. After that, we needed new approach. We started with a pile of books nearly a foot high. I put Peanut and the books in his bed, and left him to it. Reference or art books with lots of pictures were the best and most engaging. He would sit and look through all the books before coming out 45 minutes to an hour, happy and calm. In all the years he sat with books for quiet time, I think he fell asleep once. These days he still likes looking at books but also uses quiet time to draw or listen to audiobooks. We have quite a few audiobooks (the Roald Dahl collection is amazing) but limit his time with them.
Pumpkin is a different story. She doesn’t enjoy books as much and thrives on being around people. We’ve try to find ways to do quiet time together. When I wrote the first draft of this post, she sat next to me at the table imitating my typing on her Fisher-Price cash register. A notebook and stickers are also great at the table. She might get out her little ironing board and “iron” scraps while I work in the workroom. Sometimes, I will lay on the couch and she will snuggle up between me and the back of the couch with a book or two. Other times, she will invent silent games to play while I take my quiet time.
We’re finding our way as the kids get older and quiet time changes. What’s important is that it’s a part of the routine in our home that we all participate in. If we’ve had some busy days or if they’re tired, the kids will ask for quiet time and we know how to give it to them. I like that they learn to listen to their bodies and feel when they need a break. As a family, it’s also a good and powerful thing that we’ve found ways to give ourselves a break in a way that maintains peace and energizes us for more fun later! Clearly, this isn’t the only way and I’d love to have more tricks up my sleeve, so tell me, how do you manage breaks in your home?