The past two months have been busy ones. So much has happened. Hair has been cut for the first time, baby has started eating food, teeth have erupted, both children have radically changed their sleeping habits and thus our daily routines, naps have been dropped, and taken back up, and dropped, and shifted, Isobel has grown an almost incredible amount and discovered the world around her, we have begun a rather intense new diet designed to heal food allergies, and spring is here. Owen is for the first time truly smitten with spring. Daffodils, forsythia, and all sorts of flowers capture his attention on our daily walks.
All of this has been an amazing ride but an intense one as well. One with no time to sit and write. I cannot even begin to describe the incredible efforts that have been going on to cope with and embrace all the new change around here. One akin to the first few weeks of having a baby. Because suddenly I am realizing that I have two CHILDREN. Until this winter one was really a very portable lump content to sleep as long as she was near her mommy and accompany her borther on whatever outing he desired.
But no more! She is a Person. She has opinions about when and where to sleep. She has opinions about what she wants to play with and how long. She gets bored. She wants Attentention. Which is all very reasonable in a small human. But I hadn’t quite processed what it would be like to have two children beyond the basic task of juggling basic care. Suddenly I was juggling two humans with completely different scheduling needs while also getting the basic needs of household care taken care of. Oh yeah, and my own.
And so we have found ourselves drawn to the waldorf concept of rythym. There are so many amazing things posted about rythym on the web that I’m not going to go into all the theory now but rather just say I feel like it has saved our lives. Taking a step back and thinking about how our days flow and our weeks and our months. What rituals we feel are important, what the specific needs of our children are in each day. How to fit in all of the thousands of things that need to happen in our home each week amid all the above chaos.
It isn’t perfect yet. It spent a good month or two incubating. With me doing a lot of work but not much being apparent on the surface. Lots and lots of fails. For the first month I woke up every day with a plan that utterly failed. But we kept working at it and being patient and learning what we needed and what we didn’t. And now we are seeing results! We are settling into a new rythym, one that will of course change many many times, but that feels more sustainable.
There is too much to it to describe in one post, but here are some ideas that have helped us along the way:
- Cancelling all of our many activites we enrolled in to fill our time. Many of these were not benefiting us. They were making me feel more rushed. The experiences Owen was having at them were not so fantastic. Or the ones that were were interrumpting the babies schedule. They were keeping us from first discovering our own rythym as we were constantly struggling to fit it around scheduled activites. Instead we just focus on a small thing each day. Going to the park for example. Or the farmer’s market.
- Shutting off the TV and the iphone and the ipad. Not that we used these sooo much, but we did use them more than I liked. And I started noticing that though it was easier in the short term I often paid dearly for that time. Owen was more demanding, fussy, and less able to play on his own or well after spending time doing anything electronic. We went cold turkey for a while to get out of the habit. Then I decided to let Friday afternoon be “TV time”. He gets to choose one show to watch after rest and I get a small break at the very end of the week.
- Planning a few specific activities that were engaging, calming, and supportive for Owen. Namely a parent/child group at the waldof school and trying out a weekly “forest nursery” style playdate with a friend. Both of these seem to require more effort from me than the various playgroups we had been attending, but because Owen’s play is more rich and the environment more calm I actually get more of a rest and come away feeling refreshed. And making the small effort to play outside in the dirt and grass and trees once a week has transformed Owen into an avid naturalist! The Waldorf environment has been amazing for Owen. The one nap I can count on now is after Waldorf school. Amazing that that happens from an environment that is so incredibly calm. I’ve learned a lot from that. .
- Getting a babysitter for one morning a week so I can have a break but the children can maintain their daily routine.
- Creating a rough “meal plan” guide of what to cook each night. Rudolf Steiner has a whole theory about a grain for each day of the week that I love. But since our current diet is grain free I assigned a different meat to each night, one night for cleaning out the fridge, and one night for a veggie pizza. I often skip nights or do things on the wrong night but it has greatly smoothed planning what to buy for the week, what to defrost for the next night, and makes it easier on my tired morning brain to think about dinner.
- Begin planning dinner right after waking.
- Planning a household chore that I want to do each day. Ideally something Owen can help with if he wishes. These aren’t large but make a huge difference–mopping the floor on mondays, washing a window on fridays, vacuuming on Tuesdays, cleaning the kitchen table (and polishing it) on Thursdays. Owen loves helping with the “chores” and our house is reasonably clean.
- Embracing the idea of “proximity work“. Like all two year olds Owen wants my attention constantly. I of course have stuff I would like to accomplish. The more I try to accomplish away from him, the more he tries to get my attention and the more unhappy we both are. Ive been finding small tasks I can do while sitting next to him as he plays. Knitting is an amazing one for this. But also fixing toys, sewing, etc. I feel more productive and so can sit longer and just be with him. But because I’m a little busy I don’t interfere in his play as much as I would otherwise and he is free to let it develop however he needs it to. He also is much better at letting me put his sister down for a nap without him “helping” if I’ve foucsed some energy on his play. It can be anything other than electronic work since that immediately pulls him away from play.
- Ending our week on Saturday. Saturday is “chore day”. We split up the kids and James does the laundry while I grocery shop. I do various kitchen work. We clean the bathroom. Whatever work we need to get done we do. Sunday is the beginning of our week and “family fun” day. It is so relieving to wake up and know we have nothing to do but spend some time together!
Since we have really begun to find our rythym we have had two of the most fantastic weekends we have had in a long long time. And an absolutely terrible week after a weekend where our plan didn’t work out due to a trip. It took us an entire week to catch up on the cleaning and cooking and housework and family time! I also notice Owen is becoming more aware of the days as they gain more regularity. He often asks, “what is today? what do we do on monday?” The more I hold the rythym steady the more willing he is to do things that he used to resist.
Now I need to find the space in our rythym for blogging and pumping, the two things I just seem to never be able to get to!