In the Beginning . . .
In those first days after my children were born, I can not remember having many thoughts that didn’t revolve around them. Everything that I needed to do or think about other than them felt like a distraction. I was focused and present.
As time went on and we settled back into the rhythm of the day-to-day, my mind needed to consider things and people other than my daughters.
Striking that balance between being a responsive parent and managing the other things in my life is tricky. My daughters no longer need the same type of attention they did as young infants.
The Context of Play
Now that they can play independently for extended periods of time, my efforts are spent trying to create the conditions that support independent play. From carefully chosen playthings, books, and art experiences, the environment is theirs as much as it is mine. Lately, however, I’ve started to notice that I have been treating our shared environment, our home, as sometimes more mine than ours.
I love to listen to music. If I were left on my own, I’d play music all day – preferably, loudly. My taste in music is sometimes at odds with creating a peaceful environment for the girls. Our home is TV/computer-free during the girls’ waking hours, so naturally I listen to music without limit.
Between the talkative toddler and my raucous taste in music, I started to notice what a busy environment Moon (10 months) was experiencing at times. Though she wasn’t upset or even irritated by it, I did notice how distracted both Greysen and I could be by the music, and I began to wonder what, if any, effect the extra ambient noise could have on Moon.
Greysen and Moon have overlapping afternoon naps, but recently Moon has started to wake before Greysen, leaving us an hour or so to ourselves. With the house relatively quiet so that Greysen can rest, I realized just how much I was contributing to the noisiness at home.
In our hushed home, I began to notice just how far from silent our quiet house really was, and so did Moon. Most of all, I noticed that when we kept the house quiet and still, it helped my mind do the same.
Sitting at home, we hear birds (several types, actually, most of which I couldn’t name), cars, wind chimes, our meowing cat, the hum of the refrigerator, and the rustle of the lemon tree. Natural sounds. Peaceful sounds. Minus four voices, these are the sounds of home. In this muted moment, the bonds that were forming between us were resounding.
These past afternoons, I have watched Moon and waited attentively as she plays. I’ve noticed the strength with which she holds herself as she now starts to pull to a standing position. I noticed a new scooting motion to her crawl. I noticed her noticing me, and then returning to play.
This brief one-minute clip is of her playing in our quiet home while her older sister is playing nearby. Is this quiet catching on?
While I can list 50 things that distract me from being present, I can think of only a few environmental ones that I have some control over. During the day, I find myself so often distracted by both unimportant and important things alike that divert my attention away from the only two things that really matter. Keeping an uncluttered space so that the environment is easily navigable for my daughters is a priority, but seldom do I think about actually having an uncluttered atmosphere. I can choose to dismiss any possible effects background noise can have on us, or I can choose to reduce the background noise in our home. Since I have already noted that a peaceful atmosphere help me keep my mind in the place it needs to be in order to remain responsive, I can only expect a similar impact on my daughters.
“Observe more, do less. Do less, enjoy more.”
– Magda Gerber
In our toddler-paced lives, having a quiet home is not my goal. A home filled with laughter and cries, extended drum solos and screeches of glee from being found during a game of hide-and-seek is welcomed. These sounds are meaningful to my children. It is the disconnected pulse of advertisements and some types of music (including my favorites) that are beginning to feel like an imposition in my children’s lives.
For the better part of the this past week, I’ve taken a new approach toward setting the tone of our day. Music, if played at all, was chosen in consideration of what we were engaged in. I hope that this gift of a quiet-ish home will bring with it a new kind of peace. An inner tranquility, perhaps, that can set the tone for focused play and peaceful interactions.