Sunday, October 12, 2008

After-Lunch Quiet Time

Michelle was here with her boys this afternoon. After lunch, at what would normally be naptime, Jayden and Roman became fairly wound up and wouldn't stay settled down, so Michelle had them take a "quiet time" on the couch with a stack of books.

Most days, at home, sometime after lunch, the boys have quiet time on their beds. They are allowed to look at books, but that is all. Jayden always falls asleep during quiet time, so this becomes his nap time. Roman usually stays awake, but he loves books so much he doesn't mind being on his bed.

Roman shows Jayden something in one of his favorite books-- Oh, What A Busy Day! by Gyo Fujikawa.

While the boys quietly looked at books on the couch, Michelle and Melissa sat at the table and visited. Melissa was writing in her journal and looking through her writing notebooks while Michelle drank tea. And I cleaned up the bit of mess that was left from lunch and snapped a few photos.

All was peaceful.

When quiet time was over, Jayden was right off that couch and moving again! But Roman kept reading. He loves books (Jayden does, too). Roman is starting to tell Michelle what sounds different letters make, and she has no idea how he knows. This sort of thing, though, is not all that unusual with kids who grow up in a very bookish environment and learn to love books.

When my own kids were growing up at home, we, too, had quiet time every day after lunch. It was much the same as the one Michelle has established with her boys. When after-lunch cleanup was done, my kids would go to their beds where they could either read or sleep. No playing with toys. No talking. No getting off the bed.

I should mention that I usually started quiet time by sitting with the kids to read aloud-- from picture books when the children were young and from chapter books when they were older. This helped to calm and quiet everyone and get them into the mode of being still with books.

Once they were on their beds, the children who were tired would fall asleep and the ones who weren't got to read. Ours was also a bookish environment, so all four of our children grew up loving books. We collected books for our home library, and every week we visited the public library and brought home a wooden crate full of books. So, we never lacked reading material.

*The kids didn't mind quiet time. In fact, they enjoyed it. It lasted as long as I wanted it to, most often about an hour, but the kids also knew that it might go longer. We maintained this after-lunch quiet time for years and years.

It was good for the kids, giving them the security of a routine, a time for rest (they played hard all day), a time with books, a chance to learn to be still for an extended time, and more.

And it was good for this mother, who really needed, and still needs, a few spaces of quiet in her day. It gave me a silent while to think or sit or read or attack some tasks that I had trouble doing while everyone was running around. Or I could rest or nap. Basically, I could do whatever I wanted or needed to do.

*I should say, the kids rarely minded quiet time. Once, when Michelle was young, she balked at it. Michelle was our very silly girl-- our happy, energetic, funny entertainer. On this particular day, she didn't want to be still and quiet on her bed, so she kept talking throughout quiet time. She bounced around on her bed, acting silly in an attempt to get the others to laugh.

While Michelle was all smiles and silliness, I was quite serious about no messing around at quiet time, so I continued to add 15 minutes to her staying-on-her-bed- time until she settled down. This went on til dinnertime-- 5:00 p.m.-- when she finally fell asleep!

Yikes. I'd begun to wonder what kind of showdown I'd gotten myself into and if I was handling it wisely. Was Michelle going to spend her entire childhood on her bed?! I tried to avoid getting caught in head-to-head battles with my children, but kids didn't have the right to disobey what was set. And if there's a time it's okay to wield an occasional iron fist, it's when the kids are little.

So, while I had doubts about how this situation was unfolding, once Michelle was finally allowed down from her bed (as soon as she awoke), she was as bubbly and cheerful as ever, and she never did that at quiet time again.

I don' t know if those of you with young children have quiet time in your homes (I'm quite sure some of you do, and I'm also sure that some of you moms of older kids have done this, too), but I highly recommend it. There are many good reasons to have quiet time-- both for the children and for you!