We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation and wildness.
David Orr from "Earth in Mind"

Jun 22, 2007

Structure vs Love

I have been thinking back to my time as a teacher. I for most of my time I saw in practice that the students did better with a schedule imposed on them. For a long time I assumed that this was just the nature of children, people really. This was before Alder so I did not know what having a child was like.

Before Alder was born I had daydreams of putting a child to sleep in a wonderful nightly ritual. There was even a month when I tried this. But it was not the calm ritual that I imagined. I arbitrarily chose 7pm for his bedtime. So we would go up stairs and get into pajamas and hangout on the bed. I would try to read a story but he was more interested in turning the pages or sitting on the book. Then I would give him his bottle and rub his back, which would last a few minutes then he would be up roaming the bed. Any time I saw a yawn I would take this as a sign and I would hold him with the bottle.

Needless to say most of the time this ended in him crying to sleep in my arms. I took the crying as a sign of tiredness. Then one day I looked at the clock and realized that I usually took an hour and a half to get him to sleep. It wasn't a pleasant ritual it was a painful wrestling game where I was imposing my needs on him. So I stopped.

Alder now goes to sleep when he is ready. sometimes it's as early as 6 others it's 9 but it's his choice. One or both of us will be sitting in the living room reading or working on a project. He plays on the floor and occasionally comes over to our lap to be picked up. Most times this is so he can dive off the side of the chairs with us holding his ankles. As he get sleepy he prefers to just sit with us rocking for a while before he climbs back down to play. At one point he'll complain a little to get us to see that he wants a bottle. With the bottle he climbs into our lap and nuzzles himself into a cozy spot and falls asleep. If it's too hot for cuddling he'll find the meditation mat and lie down there.If he falls asleep in our arms we keep him there until he is fully asleep before we put him down in the bed, or if it is too warm out to be up stairs yet we put him on the mat.

By letting go of my need for a schedule has made the evenings pleasant we spend our time together winding down each in our own way, when we are ready we go to sleep. Some nights the three of us get into bed together all drifting off at the same time. The other effect letting him go to sleep when he is tired is that he sleeps better during the night. Sometimes he still gets up hungry but usually we all wake up as the sun comes in the window.

Through this letting go of structure and giving Alder the power to choose when he sleeps it makes all of our lives better. This has made me wonder why say children need structure. I think the structure is only a substitute for love. Children thrive when they know what to expect, if they know they are supported and loved in everything they do the expectation is met by this love. It is impossible for a teacher in a classroom with many students to give each child that same absolute love (or even expected) therefore for these children the expectation becomes the schedule.

Being able to give Alder the ability to grow and learn in his own rhythm is important to me. Not just through his baby and toddlerhood but all the way through. There is so much to experience and learn in this world I don't want to stifle this by packing him into a school for seven hours a day to be processed like a can of tuna fish.

1 comment:

Robin Flinchum said...

Hi, just found your blog. This post could have described my own process almost exactly!! When we finally started letting Sam just wind down and tell us when he was ready to go to sleep, night time became one of the best parts of our day.

I think your blog is lovely.


Robin Flinchum (also a writer mama looking for balance and harmony and feeling sure home is the place it begins)