As I mentioned before, during the school year my daughter had many intense tantrums. I wondered why . . . New baby? Postpartum cranky mom? Just normal for her age? But a new answer is coming clear that trumps all the rest. Overstimulation. The social setting can easily overstimulate my daughter to the point of distress, especially when she is away from me so our connection is disrupted. I knew to trust my heart on this when this post from the Parenting Passageway brought me to tears.
We tried a test. Stayed at home for a week: no tantrums. Five day summer camp: tantrums including tears, fist pounding, kicking, choking, gagging. Stayed home another week: no tantrums. Another camp: more tantrums. Now don’t get me wrong, the content of these camps was brilliant, inspiring, mind-opening for my daughter. The problem was being around so many people, so much noise, activity, conflict, raised voices, close physical contact. I can only imagine, but I’m pretty sure that the seams in my daughter’s socks feel like pain to her. So this stuff can only be more intense. She seems to absorb all the emotions around her so that it takes days to process and feel peaceful again.
So, from this point on, the summer will be a detox from preschooler socializing. Instead, we will do less and stay home more. How much more? Lots more. More days than we go out. What will we do at home (?!?), I asked myself.
My goal, my highest hope, is to feel the way I felt that day at the beach so long ago. Present, at peace, and absolutely in tune and in love with my children. Those sublime feelings make even the simplest day at home a dynamic day, far from boring. The distracting bustle of going out, being on time, meeting others’ expectations, these often rattle me and I can’t get back to that peaceful place.
So I wanted to start simple. Tantrum-free summer. Let’s see . . . What will we do all day. The Waldorf people use a weekly rhythm to start, for example, the same main activity every Monday, giving a name and identity to Monday. Monday is soup day, the day we make soup together.
Every day my daughter asks, “what are we doing today?” When I have a good answer–“it’s dance class day”–there are no complaints! If I don’t have a clear answer, then she starts on “I want, I want, I want.” Then she doesn’t like my ideas and fights me at every step. If we do what she wants, say, the park, getting her to leave at the end is torturous and tantrum-inspiring. So I needed a plan every day. And when I have to think of what to do on the spot, I want to throw a tantrum, too!
She needs me to be in charge, to decide what we will do each day. To step into the big grown-up shoes, as Lisa B says. To take responsibility for all the worrying, all the decisions. To leave her free to relax into the moment and to ride the routine, safely up and down on the magic carpet of her own imaginative realm. While I take care of the details. And for me, too, I need it all planned out ahead. No last minute choices. No stress, so I can live in the moment, too.
I decided to start with one Waldorf-typical day, Bread Day. Or in our house, Día de Pan.
My first attempt didn’t go so well.
I started to stress, the electrons in the house started to heat up, speed up, everything moving faster and faster towards a crash. So I did the most un-Waldorfly thing. We all watched a how-to video on making bread. Everyone was captivated. They danced during the musical interludes.
I relaxed. I tried again. This time, my daughter helped and told me, yes, that’s what the bread guy did. That’s what it looks like when we do it at school. Magic! It actually was as fast and easy as everyone says! I was just stirring wrong. (What?)
Magic! I’m telling you. We made bread. We played with the dough. Squeezed it in our hands, squished it through our fingers. Patted it flat like arepas. Rolled it into balls. Into snakes. Rolled the snakes up into snails — these caracoles were in high demand later. Total absorption in the moment. It felt good.
It was also pretty amazing how these slimy balls were transformed in the oven, into beautiful little bread rolls, panes! It somehow magically transformed our household chaos into a Waldorf moment, too. Afterwards, the joy and wonder halo lasted. A good couple of hours followed of play in the magic world of puppets and dancing. The two siblings, side by side. Suspiro.
Wednesday is Bread Day. I’ll write about our daily rhythm and the rest of our week another time, but our week is shaping up nicely. Each time I try something new, it’s a bit chaotic. I feel crazy, overstimulated myself, pulled in different directions. I am still too hormonal to multi-task and feel OK. But it is exciting, inspiring even, to try new things with my children. I feel these new things becoming familiar, things we know by heart like how to get out of bed and get dressed in the morning. Things we do on auto-pilot.
Both of these two feelings are important. The new and scary, the creative leap. The familiar which becomes part of us, so intimate. These two mixed together, combined with a generous slug of the love and connection between us, this makes the ordinary feel sacred and sublime. Our seemingly normal or simple days feel magical. I hope this feeling will last as the rest of our Days fall into place.