Pretty much every parent who has ever existed will understand the desire for peace and quiet. Kids, especially the little ones, can be LOUD. Whether it’s screaming in pain, in joy, or because they do not like their yogurt flavour, I feel like preschoolers may be the loudest of the bunch, although I have a toddler now who is giving his older brother a run for his money.
Needless to say, I often just want quiet. My husband is my opposite in this department. He always wants the TV to be on so he has some kind of background noise, where as I very rarely even put music on unless I’m driving. I like silence. Sweet, blessed silence. I have been reading a book that my aunt gave me called, Mitten Strings For God – Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kenison. It’s a beautifully written collection of stories from her own life as a mother of two boys, encouraging the reader to slow down, to pare down our schedules and “tune into a gentler rhythm.” And the best word I can think of to describe this book is quiet. It’s not simply about quieting the literal noise, but also the figurative – the busyness in our every day lives.
It echoed all the thoughts I have about how I want to run my home and raise my family that I have never really been able to articulate. There is such a lovely peacefulness within this book and I immediately wanted to incorporate all her discoveries and suggestions into my own life.
Easier said than done, of course, but even from before reading the book I’ve been on a journey of slowing down and finding silence. Having kids does that to you. It can take twenty minutes to walk a block, because there are a lot of cracks and spiderwebs and bugs to look at. You simply can’t be in a hurry if you’re tuning in to a child.
Before my second son was born, we lived for a few months in a place that I hated. It was tiny and very much not-as-advertised, and the landlords were a little bit unstable. (read: out of this world crazy). It was also in a hilly neighbourhood, and just to get out the door to our van we had to go up twenty steps, a very steep driveway, and then climb a hill for half a block. (Doing this while pregnant = a special kind of hell). Because of the vibe of that place, I had to get out EVERY DAY with my (then) toddler. Like, almost without fail. And because of the hills and the state of my belly we couldn’t just meander around. We went places. Strong Start. Swimming. The library. Anywhere we could to spend at least half of the day time hours out of the house because it was depressing me. It wasn’t like things were that hectic or over-scheduled, but I did feel that we couldn’t just exist in our home.
When Baby E was born (or 4 days before, to be precise), we bought a town house in a different city and it is glorious. Now I love to simply exist at home. I still need to get out relatively often, but I find the quieter I get in my spirit, the happier I am to stay at home and just be. I enjoy the ordinariness of our day to day. We walk the dogs in the morning and the evening, and there is rarely a rush to get home so we can enjoy the squirrels and the birds and the spiders and the magic of the ordinary. Because the baby (who I really should be referring to a toddler now) still naps twice a day and naps much better in his crib, if we do go out it may be for an hour or two after lunch, but our big adventures are a more rare and perhaps more special occasion.
Our new place is ten minutes from the quaint ‘historic downtown’ of our city and one of my favorite things to do is simply walk with the kids down to the bakery. We each get a cheese-stick, or maybe a cookie, and eat it by the fountains in the little town square. Sometimes we stop for produce at the market, or for a trinket at the dollar store, and then we make our way back home, usually the long way through a beautiful linear park, admiring the fountains and flowers as we go. It is, in a word, peaceful. And even though M will often be chattering and singing and E will be squealing and squeaking, there is still a quiet loveliness about it that makes me want to freeze these moments and make them last indefinitely.
I am so calm. And unhurried. And unstressed. And I love it.
I find when we are chasing activities or rushing to play dates (which I think are both valuable and fun) I find the rush – if i let it – can take over. The rush brings stress and tension. In turn, that stress and tension seems to dictate my children’s behaviour. They feed off of it in a negative way. Is mommy stressed and wants everyone to be quiet? Well that would be the time to play the ‘who can scream the loudest’ game. Is mommy in a hurry and wants everybody to just put their darn shoes on and stand by the door? Well, this is certainly the time to remove all of our clothes and poop in the center of the living room. (that has only happened once, to be fair). But when Mommy is present, and calm and unhurried, the home takes on that atmosphere, and the children simply play.
Today we were downstairs at around 8:30 in the morning (at which point we had already been up for 3 hours, eaten breakfast, walked the dogs, cleaned the living room and played with trains. I’ll take your sympathy if you’re offering). The drizzle outside turned into a torrential downpour, and at the sound of a crack of thunder I suggested that we go upstairs to watch the rain out the window. Into the master bed we piled, and the kids each found a special little spot on the windowsill which sits just below the headboard. They piled pillows in there and curled up, and we watched the rain.
We must’ve been there close to thirty minutes before it was time for me to put E down for his first nap. Thirty minutes of just sitting.It’s funny because I want to say it was silent, because that’s how I remember it being, but it wasn’t. E was squealing and pointing out every “car car” and at least for the last half of it M was singing made up songs about the Octonauts and lightning. But the peacefulness of it – no fighting, no rushing, no sense of having to finish or complete something – was absolutely beautiful. There may still have been plenty of noise in the room, but my soul was blissfully quiet. And if I can recapture that feeling each day, even if only for a few moments, then I know my children will be better for it.
“And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” -Isaiah 32:17
This post is linked up with some other great posts here: