The Seeking of Quiet in the Midst of Loud

Quiet is important to me. Having my own space to be alone so that I can think, holds value to me. I also really love being surrounded by my people. Having them near me, in the same room, while they do their own thing helps me feel the love we have for each other. As I was making dinner last night it struck me how independent my kids are, yet how much they want to be together. These three are still young. I know their desire for space and privacy will increase in the coming years, but I am very grateful for how much time we spend together.

The two of them, always right here.
Ignoring the world.
What we do while momma reads aloud.

If you’re new here you should know that we unschool our youngest three kids; this means that I spend every waking hour (and a lot of the ones when we should be sleeping too) with my kids. I read this stat recently that sort of blew my mind. In the article I’ve linked from the Washington Post they are discussing how quality time with your kids is better than the quantity of time spent with your kids. The fact that jumped out at me though was that the average mother spends 13.7 hours per week with her child. That’s not even two hours per day!

I know that some of you who read here don’t homeschool your kids and I know that the opinions I throw out here randomly have a tendency to irritate. This is just one chart after all, is there any truth behind it? A simple Google search will answer that question for you, probably in the exact way that you’d like the question answered too. The data field is filled with so much information that it is overwhelming. I am certain that there are a lot of parents who work outside of the home and who traditionally school their children who spend more than two hours per day with their kids. I’m not here judging any individual, rather America as a whole. Why is raising up children in the way they should go so seemingly, unimportant? Do we simply believe that someone else can do a better job growing our kids? Do we lack trust in ourselves? This is such a mystery to me.

The number got me wondering though. My kids are home, in my care all of the time. So I tried to add it all up and here’s my number of hours spent with at least one of my children per day: 13.5 . While I didn’t subtract out the occasional Sunday afternoon where I sneak out to write or read a book in complete,utter, and blessed silence. Or the hour I get on Monday mornings when I head over to pick up my girl. I also didn’t add in the multiple middle of the night wakings, the mornings when my teeny is awake at five AM or the evenings when I read to my kids until 9:30. So in case you didn’t see that number, I spend the average American mother’s weekly amount of time caring for her children in one day. That means I spend 94.5 hours with my kids every week.

As my boy used to say, Holy Maca-Roni!

I would argue that stat again here, stating that there is no way that the amount of time I spend with my kids does not influence them at least as much as the quality of our time together. When you give all of your waking hours to your little people there are going to be great, enriching, educational times. They are going to learn who they are and who they want to grow into. They will learn your values, morals, standards and decide if they want to internalize those same ideals or not simply because they are in your presence. They will also be bored. They will feel that things are not fair. They will always want more even when you believe you have poured out every, single last drop from your own pitcher.

Even now, before six AM, my teeny has come to snuggle in next to me. Stealing my time with her sweet little wants and needs. Of course, you’d be right in arguing that all of those 94 hours are not spent specifically on the caring-for of children. At least you’d not be entirely wrong. I have a friend who says; “It doesn’t matter that the kids are off playing on their own and I’m washing the dishes. I’m still “on”, still listening to them play, noticing the cues, realizing they’ll want a snack soon…”. I would describe my mothering as exactly this; giving my kids the freedom to seek God’s will for their lives while I am “on” at a distance. I’m here, all of the times they need or want me, but I send them out to be themselves as much as possible. It’s important to me to note that I have also spent a lot of hours guiding my kids in being independent, or, maybe, allowing independence to be the result of our activities, is a better way of putting it.

In this intense amount of time that I spend with my kids I have worked hard to teach them to be quiet. Not just for my own sanity, but for theirs. I feel like so many kids in this time really have no idea how to be alone with their own thoughts, how to sit with their own boredom and search out their own hearts. I spent a lot of mornings teaching my little boy that first thing in the morning we grab a blanket and a water bottle and snuggle into a chair with a good book. Now he does this throughout the day as he recognizes his own need for a little down time. I am grateful for the time I sacrificed to teach him this skill.

My oldest little frequently slips headphones over her ears and tears through the pages of a novel. She has discovered the need of silence on her own. Living in the middle of bigs and littles I suppose one should expect that. Now that my teeny is four I have been working to lead her to the want of quiet. She is currently resisting in a way only she can. She starts talking three minutes after she wakes and she is loud and opinionated for all of the minutes after that, right up until falls asleep next to me. If she is not vocally loud, she is desiring of all of my attention in other ways that cause me to be constantly aware of her presence. This is not a quiet child. Not yet.

I will continue to coax her toward her own space, her own time. I will invest in this because I see the value of it. When my older kids sit down alone with books or games or Legos in the afternoon, I know they are resetting for the rest of the day. They are giving themselves a bit of peace in a world that has devalued this. We try not to use the quiet time up with screens, though it does happen occasionally, because the nearly 100 awake hours in our week offer up plenty of time for that. I try to remind myself that in teaching them to be still and quiet I am giving them a gift to carry with them always. Because we practice this regularly, I trust that they will feel the value of silence even after they have followed their own paths away from me. They will seek it out, fight for it.

There are times I feel like my house is so loud. That I must escape the constant clamoring for my attention. When I am aware though, and not completely overwhelmed, I see each of them sit quietly for a few minutes throughout the day. I see the peace wash over them as they do this. I am able to soak a little of that peace up myself and I am glad. For them and for me. After all, let’s be honest here; Momma’s really do just need the quiet.

Peace to each of you this day. May you seek it out. May it make it’s home in you.

Reading, Writing, and Wandering

“…That it is possible to live in a different way: in your own way, part of the world, but not imprisoned by the rules. That you can know the ropes and yet not be hemmed in by them. That you can dwell alongside the mainstream, while not being part of it.”

From: The Stopping Places by Damian Le Bas

 

Isn’t that it though? What I have spent hours and days and pages trying to figure out for and about myself suddenly appears there in a book while reading late into the night. It continues to surprise me -especially when I stumble across a paragraph that seems to have been written on  my very soul- that so many other people feel similarly. I suppose I know that I am not all that unique, not so unusual, but still. The words will occasionally be more than I can handle. They will be so closely related to my own hearts writing that it skips a beat.

I get lost in a good book. Let’s be honest, I get lost in a mediocre book too. As I read the words really do disappear and the story plays in my mind like on an old reel projector. Friends are always recommending these “self-help” books, these relevant-to-my-SAHM/homeschooling-life types of books. While I will read most of those, or at the very least skim through them so that I can absorb the most helpful parts, I don’t want to read these types of books. I mean, I do want to be my best self and I know that educating myself on my chosen way of parenting and teaching has value, it’s just that these books don’t make me want to stay up until the wee hours of the morning wrapped in their words and a blanket.

I want to read some deep fantasy over a thousand pages long. A story so enveloping the world becomes real to me. I want to have a physical ache for the characters when they die or when I come to the last page and realize that our relationship ends when I close the cover. I want to be so enamored with a book that tears freely fall from my eyes, that I gasp out loud, that I can not physically put it down. There is a deep connection when you read a good book. I would propose that the works of fiction teach us just as much about ourselves as any self-help book out there. That they are capable of teaching us more even, if we read them carefully, allowing ourselves to become a part of the story.

“A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic” -Carl Sagan 

I’ve written about books before. I am kind of stuck right now, I have these words that I’d like to pour out, but also I am happy just thinking my thoughts, just talking to my husband, just living out what I’ve tried to spell out over the past year or so. That piece of myself that has been writing about wandering, about getting lost on back roads, about breathing deeply has actually been doing those things. It’s been really good. Not in the way that vacationing is good, but in the way following your heart is good.

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After having read two books and several articles about why nature is important in our daily lives I was done reading about what I knew to be true, and so we went out and we lived it. This Summer has been a season of adventure and the adventures have been bold and loud and fulfilling. This Summer has been one that I have ached for, it has taught me so much about myself, it has me slowing down so that I don’t get to the last page too quickly. Because even though I know the story doesn’t end as the seasons change, it still feels remarkably akin to the last chapter in a book when you know the next in the series is still a year away from release. You want to savor every chapter, every paragraph, you simply don’t want it to be over.

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The comparisons that I’m trying to make are not super clear, I know. As I mentioned the story is here, in my head, but it’s maybe not ready to be written. Perhaps there are more pages in this book of Summer yet to live first? I sure hope so. I would come back to something that I believe I’ve shared on this page before. How the path we walk doesn’t really dead-end when we think it does. How we may need to rest or to look for awhile, but the next step is already there, we only have to be willing to move our feet. Much like the next good book to get lost in. It is likely already written, even if I’m not ready to leave one fictional world for the next, it’ll be there when I am. Yeah, it’s a reach…but it’s good to be back here writing again. I’ll get something better out to y’all soon.

in the end, she became more than she expected. she became the journey, and like all journeys, she did not end, she simply changed directions and kept going. -R.M. Drake