I’m on week three of all-day-every-day just me and the kids. My strategy is to keep our days simple and rhythmic, to stay home more and do less. I admit, my stated goal of “tantrum free” was partially to get your attention, oh reader. But did I really think that simplifying life would be a miracle cure? A cure for tantrums? Maybe. Let’s call it “Summer of Calm” instead, to keep it realistic.
Here is a picture of our weekly rhythm:
Each day has one central activity (those little pictures and the words in orange). The other parts of the day repeat. Tuesday and Thursday are our out-breath days when we see other families, while the other in-breath days we keep to ourselves, internal, mostly at home.
So, how is it going?
Week one was the honeymoon phase. Really no tantrums, such relief. Weeks two and three, some tantrums again, but the gap has been filled with whining. Typical preschooler freak-outs about things not being a certain way. In the morning I’m fresh but by evening my creativity and patience are wearing out.
Is my rhythm really on? Am I doing it right? I feel like now I’m doing dishes and sweeping all day, because when the two kids do play on their own it’s so irresistible to catch up on housework. But that’s the Waldorf way, work and play, no? Or am I ignoring them?
The daily rhythm and the doing-less are supposed to bring predictability and calm, to eliminate choices and unexpected situations, which are so often the triggers for young children’s stress and freak-outs.
The other day I saw a family walk into a store and ask their four-year-old, “what do you want to eat?” When a tantrum ensued, I congratulated myself. That’s exactly what I avoid with my pre-planned meals and activities. Predictability. No choices.
I see that my daughter’s need for this is real. As I’ve said, she’s easily overwhelmed and it causes her real distress. So are all my efforts helping? Maybe it would be a lot worse if I weren’t doing this. But why is she still getting upset?
Does it cost me so much the one time I let things go? One chocolate ice cream, one late bedtime, and she starts demanding it again and again. I can’t get rid of the “I wants” without total detox. Most people say it’s inevitable, just toddler emotions. But I’m telling you, kids in the jungle have less tantrums. I’m sure of it. (I lived there for a year and I felt so different.) Cut out the busy streets, the TVs, the devices, the pollution, and give them meaningful work tending the animals and cooking. Surround them with trees. I think children really thrive. They can be in the moment, just be.
Here on week three, I realize that total jungle-like immersion is impossible. So is my modest (imperfect) rhythm and nature play helping?
Today was Hiking-Nature Day. We spent the day in scenic McLaren Park exploring golden meadows, redwood groves, tree fern tents, and fairy houses in hollow trunks. We watched dramatic views of hanging fog breaking up over the hills. The kids ran wild and got tired out by the wind and sun, covered in dust and sweat. We came home cheerful and chatty, at ease.
But the truth is, we were in a social setting and it was draining as well as fulfilling. For me, keeping tabs on the toddler while maintaining social conversation is confusing and draining. I crave connection with other moms but I wish we, too, could cut to the pithy bits and then find time to just be, together, in nature.
My new hypothesis is that my daughter needs a period of calm do-less days to build up her inner reserves. Then she can weather the bombarding stimuli of the world — the sensations and the social experiences. I do, too. The question is in the balance, how much of each. Does she recharge in a week or a month? She needs more than a few hours or an afternoon. And how long do her reserves hold out? A few months? A whole school year?
Here at week three, still more questions than answers.