You would think that being a stay at home mom would mean you’re at home all the time. This is often not the case though and I recently found myself spending less and less time at home.
At night, I would start to get a slightly panicky feeling if we had nothing planned for the next day, and try to think of something we could go do together.
I think this happened for a couple of reasons. James has gotten to an age where it’s really easy to take him out and about. He is also awake for much longer stretches of time now and I think it can be daunting to think about three hours at home with nothing to “entertain” the little one.
Also, while I used to largely sit back and watch James play fairly independently, I had gotten out of the habit of doing this when he started pulling up to stand. I was a little bit terrified when he started pulling up because he would just let go and fall straight backwards and hit his head. So I followed him around constantly. While this may have been necessary for a week or so, it is certainly not necessary any more. He’s super capable of coming down gently and intentionally now and rarely falls. When he does fall, he almost always catches himself with his hands. I just needed to retrain myself to take a step back again and let him be.
I started reading Your Self-Confident Baby, by Magda Gerber, because I was curious about the RIE philosophy and how it was similar to / different from Montessori. I am loving the book and it really reminded me that 1) children need long, uninterrupted periods of time to play and 2) to interfere as little as possible when a child is playing / working on something.
These two things are definitely emphasized in Montessori as well, I just needed a reminder.
So last week, I took a step back. And we were both so much happier. I chose a spot to sit in the room and let him play without hovering to make sure he didn’t fall. He played happily and periodically came over to check in with me. He would usually come over very briefly and climb up on me for a hug before zooming off again. Sometimes he would choose a book for me to read him before continuing on his own. It was so fun and interesting to watch him play.
I also realized, while it seemed like James was getting “bored” playing in his room or playroom for a long stretch of time, I think this was really “false fatigue”.
False fatigue is a term we used to describe how the children behaved late in the work period at school. In a Montessori classroom, the children have three-hour long work periods where they choose work independently. Often around 10 AM or so, some of the children would start to act a little bit crazy and would stop working. They would wander around aimlessly chatting with other children and getting silly. It would seem as if they were done for the morning. In reality, they were a little fatigued from all of their hard work and needed a little help settling back in. After connecting briefly with a teacher, many of the children would settle back in to do some great work. I’ve seen the same thing with James.
He will start “rage crawling” as we call it around the room, not choosing anything and grunting or whining. It will seem as if he’s totally over playing in that room. I’ve found that I can often help him settle back into playing by connecting with him. First, I just talk to him about what I’m seeing, what he may be feeling, and some things I see that he may enjoy doing.
I also find it helps if I put all of his toys back on the shelf where they go. Since he doesn’t yet restore his own toys, the room is a mess after a while. I think it becomes visual clutter to him when everything is on the floor and it’s as if he can no longer see anything interesting to work with. As soon as I put the toys away, he often sees something that strikes his interest.
If that doesn’t work, I’ll read him a couple of books or sing a couple of songs with him and then help him get started playing with something, before backing away and letting him play on his own.
These things usually work really well, unless it’s late in the day, at which point he just may be too fatigued to be as independent as he is most of the time. At that point, I’ll continue reading books with him or singing songs as long as he enjoys doing it, or take him outside for a change of scenery.
When he is playing happily on his own, I try to really observe him, which is a big part of Montessori as well as RIE. Honestly though, I don’t find myself able (at this point at least) to just sit and observe him all morning. So I also bring a book or a notebook and read or write after observing him for a while. I find that if I have nothing else to do, I often wind up jumping in when he doesn’t need my help.
I alternate observing him with reading or writing, and always put down my book as soon as he comes over to me. I choose a book because I at least think that it’s beneficial to model reading and writing, rather than being on my phone. I think that seeing adults read helps children want to read, as they want to do everything we do. I hope that, with practice, I’ll be able to observe him for longer stretches of time.
While this is just a change in outlook, it has seriously made such a difference in our days. I enjoy being with him at home so much more, and I no longer feel like we have to have something to go do every day.
I also believe that a baby is part of the family and that involves compromise. So if I’m going crazy being in the house, I will take him for a walk in the stroller, which he seems pretty neutral about, but I really enjoy. I try though to make sure he has some free time to play in every block of “awake time” throughout the day, and that he has at least one really long stretch of time every day to play freely. So far, so good!
Do you like being home a lot or being out and about more?
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