seeking quiet.

Olive’s crying right now. For the second time, I’ve returned her to her bed for rest, a quiet both of us need. I’ve seen this phase out of daytime sleep on the horizon for a while; she is three after all. Although the boys had long given up naps at her age, they quickly adapted to quieting themselves during rest time, happy to spend 1-2 hours in their beds studying the images in books they couldn’t yet read and wielding their own tales through pictures. Blythe took a little longer, but now also has learned to enjoy this peaceful part of our early to mid-afternoon. Olive, my busy toddler (is that even an adequate description?) has been harder, naturally. At this point, I can tell this “rest” feels withholding and prohibitive to her; I offer her reassurance of our need of rest and solicit her trust. Although my words often fall dead, she usually concedes, slowing down enough to either fall asleep or find her slower rhythm. We’re working on it.

When the older kids were younger (toddlers and preschoolers) it was easy to prioritize this restorative part of the day; plus we always had a baby around forcing us to slow down for naps. But as they’ve gotten older and days and school-work seem more demanding, I’ve noticed myself letting this quiet slip away, burned up in the bright, needy day. Of course the five of us spend a lot of time together and for the most part enjoy our together-ness, but we require rest from each other, space for ourselves individually, to go inside ourselves without having to answer to the other or worry about sharing space or things. Ok. My kids would never articulate this, but I notice on days we don’t separate, more bickering and whining ensues, and I’m more irritable too. Honestly, as much as I want for my children to understand words, numbers, and various forms of beauty and nature, I want them to learn to enter quiet, to practice muffling the noise — people, work, media– demanding us. To hear themselves. To hear God. What does this look like? For our family right now, it means at least an hour a day: 30 minutes of reading quietly, 30 minutes of quiet activity (Legos, painting, drawing, puzzles, writing, being outdoors, etc.). The only guidelines: you cannot interrupt another. To some of you this may seem ridiculous or strict, but the goal is to teach them the value of quiet, something I’m still learning myself, to give space to the thoughts, creations, sounds often lost to day. And so I also practice quieting my soul right alongside them, leaving my TO DOs (and various medias) in order to find rest.

How do you and/or your family find quiet and rest?