Priming the pump when your well runs dry

In our day to day whizzing about, our feet hit the floor running. Work; kids; relationships; meal planning, shopping, and preparation; laundry; cleaning; errands; ferrying people about; making and keeping appointments; volunteering; providing a shoulder to cry on… 
We give and give and give, sooner or later to have nothing left to sustain ourselves, let alone anyone else. Then where are we, and all of those who depend on us? 
The problem is that we think we don’t have the time, the money, or deserve to do the types of things that are indispensable in keeping us sane. They need not be time consuming or expensive. And it’s not necessary to resort to alcohol or other chemicals for relief or relaxation.
  • Pamper yourself. Light some candles, put on some relaxing music, and luxuriate in a bubble bath (you’ve seen what a nice bath will do for wound-up kids).
  • Go to a beauty salon just to get your hair washed, or find someone willing to sit quietly and brush your hair or rub your feet.


  • Visit a library or book store. Browse an area that is of special interest, be it travel, art, garden, cooking, poetry, inspirational, or some other topic of wonder. Children’s books are great fun to look at. You may come across one from your childhood; certainly, you will discover some new ones with stories or illustrations that will take your breath away or bring tears to your eyes.


  • Allow yourself daily contact with nature. Smell the flowers, the fresh-cut grass, the soil. Lookup through the branches of a tree and drink in the many shades of green as the sunlight filters through the leaves. Revel in the gentle breeze, the bird song, the crickets, and cicadas making their music. Watch the squirrels and their antics, the sparrows tormenting the crows. Visit the spider that is bound to be spinning a web someplace in the yard. Wonder at how all of life has its own routines and boundaries…
  • Get yourself some really nice colored pencils and a coloring book geared toward calming the frazzled minds of adults- Roger Burrows’ Images, OptiDesigns, Mandalas, Coloring Books for Women. Coloring is very relaxing.
You may notice that I tend to suggest things that seem more appropriate for children. We all have an inner child and being able to access him/her is very useful in connecting on a deeper level with the children in our lives. Not only that, but we can give ourselves the nurturance we wanted and may not have gotten as a child. 
That said, it is my firm belief that even adults should have a stash of toys of their very own. I keep a drawer of toys in my office: bubbles, slide whistle, magic wand filled with glitter, slinky, kaleidoscope, magnet sculpture, Jacob’s ladder, Koosh ball, and a snugly stuffed animal that is actually a comfort to me when I am sad or lonely. My personal favorite is a handheld labyrinth that serves to collect my thoughts when they scatter following intense and extended concentration or spending a few hours in the company of several children all vying for my attention. 
Make your own list of ideas for when you just can’t take it anymore! In the end, we must rely only upon ourselves to provide the nurturing our soul so desperately craves, to fill our spirit so that we can care for those who need us, and stay on top of the many other demands in our lives. To expect it from someone else leads only to disappointment and resentment.
RDW (2007, revised 2010)

The Joys of a Good Dump

We write to communicate, make lists, leave messages, write thank-yous, correspond with family and friends, share recipes, arrange for events, leave reminders, fill out applications, pay bills, make labels, give directions, make complaints, take minutes… The list goes on and on.

Then there are those of us who write because we have to. We have something to say, to explain, to teach, to understand, to envision, to brainstorm, to remember. We need the page to seek answers, put things in perspective, come to terms. We write to create a record, an illustration of the evolution of our families and ourselves. We want to leave something behind that is tangible.

Are you kidding?? I don’t have time for that. Besides that, I can’t write!
Relax. Writing can take different forms and need not be the least bit intimidating.
In Success is a Journey, Jeffrey J. Mayer recommends creating what he calls a “master list”. This is no ordinary, “manageable” to-do list. This is a mind dump! Get yourself a small notebook (4×6”). Make a list of every single thing you think you need or want, or wish to do or have: obligations, home improvements, events, things that you really want to do with your family, places you wish to go, shopping lists, chores, decorating ideas, recipes, every single thing that has been running around in your mind keeping you awake at night and making you feel stressed and miserable
I keep mine in my purse year-round for writing movie ideas, books I want to read, great quotes, gift ideas, garden ideas. Even if you don’t use it as a checklist (I rarely even refer to mine), you can look back at it another time and be amazed by how much you have accomplished, or how much it didn’t matter. Plus, it serves as a diary of sorts.
(Remember this: So often when we are beating ourselves up for not getting this or that done, it is the result of our own unrealistic self-expectations. Once I realized that no one else knows how much I don’t get done, it didn’t matter as much!)
Another form of writing is journaling. Journaling is one of the best things I have ever done for myself. It had been recommended over and over before I finally decided that I was willing to do whatever was necessary to be a better parent and a better person, and this turned out to be the ticket.
The challenge comes not only in being faithful but in completing the three pages that are necessary to untangle the mess that clutters our thought processes, preventing us from fulfilling our deepest dreams and fullest potential.
Now, three pages is a lot to write every day and at times you will find yourself at a loss for what to write. So you look around you and write about the mess, or how lovely your house is, or the weather, or any random thing and before you know it, you have found another thread to unravel.
Setting aside time for journaling- each morning, or while the kids are doing their homework, or after they are in bed- will change your life. It helps one to center; to work out conflict, anger, depression; to plan and dream… When you have those old negative tapes running around inside your head (“I’m fat, ugly, stupid, a bad mother, a bitch, blah, blah, blah…”), you can get them out, over and over if need be until they become so diluted they become meaningless; or you realize that you can only whine so much about something before you recognize that the only way things are going to change is if you do something about them!
Writing helps to keep your mind free so that other thoughts and inspirations may enter. When you go back to reread your pages at a different time in your life, not only do you have a record of happenings, you are able to see just how far you have come on life’s path.
When I get out of the discipline of writing a full three pages every day, I become out of sorts and lost. Like the Master List, it keeps my mind open to inspiration and the positive energy that helps us to create the life we are meant to have.
You deserve to do this for yourself. Still, need convincing? This will set an amazing example for your kids. And isn’t that what being a good parent is all about? -RDW (2007, revised 2010)

My Perfect Day


I stumble through my days in a perpetual state of discombobulation and oblivion, sifting through my thoughts for my current intention, wading through chaos for the object I seek. I long for clarity. Repeatedly, it occurs to me that my mind is a reflection of the clutter that smothers me at home and at work. Approaching my day is like walking through a sand storm. 

I try to convince myself and others that my approach enhances my life through the flexibility it offers. By winging it through my days, I remain open to the flashes of inspiration that occur so suddenly, and fleetingly. Still, how much more fulfilling my life could be if my mind were not a swarm of gnats, filled with the distraction that so interferes with the perfectibility of my days. Ah… to create a perfect day would require more hours than we are given. Would that I had the wherewithal to construct my days just so…

I awaken before anyone else in time to take advantage of my mind in its relaxed state and without distraction. It is still and dark, the sky just beginning to lighten in the east. I enter the kitchen which remains in the clean and tidy state of the previous evening. I savor the aroma of coffee as it culminates in gurgle and whoosh. The kitties wrap themselves around my ankles in purring contentment as I prepare their morning meal. I pour my coffee, settle comfortably in the living room, warm laptop alleviating the slight chill I feel. My eyes sweep the artful rugs, books lined neatly on the shelves, tasteful knickknacks, paintings, stained glass lamps that provide a warm glow to the woodwork. The scent of freshly mowed grass and lilacs wafts in on the morning breeze. Strains of George Winston play quietly in the background, filling me with the memory of young love. 
I am ready to begin my work: developing curriculum, writing an inspiring newsletter, planning for the coming season. Today I do the final draft of a piece of writing in preparation for Writers and Friends. The next hour is spent completely absorbed in the task at hand, and I am surprised when I hear the first wake up call upstairs, provided by the morning news. I slip back into our room for a warm snuggle with my beloved. We laugh and talk and listen to the stirrings of our sons.

I return to the living room to spend the next hour with my journal, dreaming, writing about the hilarious or invigorating or disturbing events of the previous day, taking inventory, making lists… This is perhaps the most important thing that I can do for myself, for when I am neglectful of this task, I become unhappy, irritable and discontent. Golden sunshine suddenly floods the living room as the sun makes it’s way over the hills in the east.

The shower is running constantly as the boys begin their synchronized morning ablutions. The slightest delay on the part of one leads to a squabble, but thankfully they are old enough to work these things out among themselves. They crash down the stairs to begin the kitchen dance in which they move about each other in relative silence, making their lunches and preparing breakfast among themselves. The house is a flurry of activity and swift goodbyes, abruptly silenced as they rush out into their day.

I close my journal, relieved that I have started the day off on the right foot. I descend to the basement to put a load of laundry in. Then clattering about the kitchen, singing along to Simon and Garfunkel or Cat Stevens, or the Moody Blues, I load the dishwasher, put things away, clean the counter, sweep the floor, and think about what to make for tomorrow evening’s meal. Gathering the ingredients, I start a pot of soup and pull a container of spaghetti sauce from the freezer. Once the soup is on, I head upstairs to make my bed, collect laundry, and shower. I luxuriate under the hot water with my favorite scented soap and shampoo. I further pamper myself with lotion and fresh, crisp, clean clothes. As I step into the hall, the fragrance of the soup prolongs my sensual delight. But now I need to step up my pace as I throw the laundry into the dryer, eat my own breakfast, and walk briskly to work. The day is perfect: clear, green, kissed with dew and the scent of new spring.

The phone is ringing when I enter the building and one of my closest friends is wanting to make a date for lunch. It has been some time since we have seen one another and my heart soars. I take a moment to return phone calls before the children arrive and thank heavens that I have mended my ways and left the building in readiness for today’s class. There is a plan, and everything that I will be needing for the day is ready in a place where it will be easily accessible. The children arrive happy and expectant, playing together while I speak briefly with parents. When the parents have left, I check in with each child. One presents a masterpiece that she has created for me.

The day goes smoothly, there are no tussles between children, everyone likes the snack I have chosen for the day, we have created works of art that make us proud, learned of something new, loved a story that had not been heard, and danced the wiggles out. The children depart, leaving me once again in silence.

My friend arrives for our lunch date and we go to a new place we have just discovered. We become so immediately absorbed in deep conversation that we lose ourselves and have forgotten to look at the menu. When lunch arrives, it so hits the spot that I swoon with pleasure. The world once again recedes as we resume our heart to heart, feeling completely at peace with one another as we divulge our innermost thoughts and concerns. Neither of us is in a big hurry, so we stop to browse our favorite garden center and come across a plant once seen, and since coveted. Not only that, there is a perfect spot for it in the garden. On the way back to my house, we burst into side-splitting laughter that hurts, brings tears to our eyes and leads both of us to dribble a tiny bit. We acknowledge to one another the amazing, incredible gift that is our friendship.

Traces of Eau de soup greet me as I enter the house looking forward to a well-deserved nap. I’m exhausted and have no trouble drifting into that state of total relaxation in which I am at the surface of deep slumber, thoughts wandering about non-sensibly between the strains of music penetrating my consciousness. I awaken feeling refreshed and rested to the sounds of boys horsing around downstairs and to the scent of fresh coffee. We banter over music that rather jars my senses and I feel intense gratitude for their presence in my life. I wish I could stay home with them, but have places to go and people to see.

My writing partner pulls up out front as I gather the things I need for the rest of the afternoon. I am filled with anticipation as we greet one another and pull out of the driveway. I heave the accustomed sigh of contentment as we enter the building and then settle in the garden for a bit of catch up before we turn our attention to the matter at hand. I marvel that spirit has brought the two of us together in our writing pursuits, because we make an awesome sounding board for one another, providing one another with support and encouragement and inspiration. The allotted time flies by and we part with a sense of magnetism toward our next writing endeavor.

I reluctantly turn to matters of business: phone calls, bills, classroom preparation for the following day. By now, I must summon my reserves, and thankfully get a second wind and so accomplish the necessary tasks before going home.

As I enter the house, I am greeted with the mouth-watering aroma of spaghetti and warm bread, my timing perfect. The table is set, and my dear husband greets me with a warm hug and kiss. The boys clamber in the kitchen as I serve up dinner. I am so tired that I eat in comfortable silence as I drink in the circle of love and appreciation and respect that flows between the six of us. The table is cleared and the kitchen cleaned up by the boys while my husband and I relax in the living room reviewing the day together.

I move into the evening by planting the garden treasure acquired earlier in the day, enlivening my soul-nurturing gardens as my spirit becomes one with the running water, the birdsong, children’s laughter, and the warm breeze rustling in the leaves. The phone rings. It is my Robin calling to discuss plans for our next visit. – RDW (6-23-08)




Babysitting Basics

One of the hazards of winter is going stir crazy trapped in a house full of kids. If you don’t have a sitter, the time to get one is now! Good sitters are few and far between, but if you can find a responsible 7th or 8th grader, usually they are not so involved with extra-curricular activities and homework that they are never available. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have him or her around for a few years!

There are a few things that you will want to clarify with the person you are entrusting your children to:
  • Check references! Referral from someone you trust is ideal.
These things need to be negotiated prior to the first job:
  • What are her (or his!) rates? Often, teens don’t have enough experience or assertiveness training to quote a fee for their services. You should have an idea what others are paying per hour, per child. For example, you may pay $5 per hour for the first child and $2 for each additional child. Check the rates in your community.
  • Does s/he have a driver’s license? A car? Will you be needing to pick your sitter up or do they have another way get to your house. The employer usually bears responsibility for getting the sitter home after dark. Do you want to allow your child to ride with others? Are the required car seats available? Is there someone available for transport in the unlikely event of emergency.
  • Are you looking for someone who is available evenings? weekends? 
  • Invite him/her over to meet the children and to discuss routines, bedtime rituals, discipline, playmates, outings, and activities
  • Discuss special needs your kids have regarding diet, health problems, allergies, fears, etc.
  • Show where phones, emergency phone numbers, first aid kit, flashlights, smoke alarms, thermostat, and message board are located.
  • Schedule a practice session: stay in the background, observe how s/he interacts with your children. Explain things s/he does well, point out what needs to be done differently.
  • Make clear your rules for her, preferably in writing: regarding homework, TV (e.g., only PBS, no other TV unless kids are asleep), computer use, snacks, no company, no texting while the kids are awake, no smoking in the house or around kids, no spanking, tidy up after self and children, and any other guidelines you deem appropriate.

Note: The Red Cross offers a six hour baby-sitting course that covers multiple aspects of baby-sitting including responsibility, leadership, safety, handling, and first aid in emergency situations. They may be able to refer a teen who has completed the training, or you may want to encourage your novice sitter to attend a session. For more information, contact your local Red Cross chapter.- RDW 3-3-09

Creativity Rediscovered

How do you respond when someone asks for your creative involvement in a project?
Too many times when I mention to acquaintances the possibility of dabbling in art, the response is, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body- I can’t draw a straight line!”
I usually feel all thumbs myself when asked to put crayon to paper. And certainly it goes back to when I was a child and thought that my art was quite lovely, until it was Jane Colony’s work that was spot lighted time after time. One of my best drawings was a winter wonderland pastel I made in fifth grade, but someone tore it off the wall in the hallway and it got trampled. This is the perfect metaphor for what happens to most of us as the creative genius of early childhood becomes stifled.
Kids love to make art. Children progress through the stages of scribbling and their first attempts at self portrait, to discover that one can draw almost anything simply by putting shapes together. They may learn how to draw rockets or sharks or flamingos or dinosaurs, and this is what they draw…over and over and over and over.

Left to their own devices, they finally move on to experiment by sketching different things with such abandon as to use every scrap of paper available. Until that inevitable time when self-consciousness tries like the dickens to squelch the radiance of who we are meant to be.
We become so concerned with what other people are thinking about us that we come to fear the full expression of who we are because someone might laugh or disapprove of us- if not in reality, certainly in our minds. So we hold ourselves back, disqualifying our thoughts and creations before someone else can. When in reality it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
Nurture your child’s creativity by providing a comfortable atmosphere where s/he can discover, experiment and explore. Establish a space- a room, corner, or table, to be the designated art area to keep and use their arts and crafts independently, Allow your child the freedom to create away from your constant supervision. Provide an endless supply of “stuff” including crayons, markers, paint, paper, scissors, glue, tape, clay, natural materials (shells, pebbles, feathers, pine cones) and reusable stuff (bows, spools, boxes, egg cartons).
As you provide opportunities for your child to experiment and discover his/her creativity, it is important to set guidelines. For example:
  • Art materials are not to be wasted and to be kept in the art area at all times.
  • Do not put paste, paint, glue, chalk, or any other materials in your mouth- they are not for eating, drinking or tasting.
  • Work only on your own project and only on the paper you are given.
  • Don’t forget to wear a smock for messy projects!
Set limits early on, with the expectation that they clean up and put their things away each time they use them. You will need to demonstrate the proper way to wash paint brushes, close bottles of glue, and replace marker covers securely. If you show by your attitude that you sincerely trust your child, s/he will be careful. 

As your child practices expressing himself some encouragement may be called for: “I bet if you practice on a different piece of paper, it will come out the way you want it to,” or “If you make a mistake, usually you can turn it into something even better than it was before.”
I have seen kids who are otherwise unable to sit still or focus on anything for more than a few minutes, let go of outside distraction and focus on the creative spirit that is within each of us. Being creative in a nonthreatening environment instillsasense of peace, a connection with something greater than ourselves, and the greatness of our own Self! 
(RDW 2007, revised 2010)

Gracious Acceptance

One of my very favorite movies is Pay It Forward. It is about a young middle school student challenged by his social studies teacher to develop and implement a plan to make the world a better place. The boy takes in a down and out homeless person and helps him get on his feet, making a huge impact on the quality of this young man’s life. He in turn is required to have a part in improving the lives of three other people in need, who are required to do the same, and so on. I love this story.
Throughout our lives, there are times when we are faced with the necessity of accepting help from other people. My biggest issue happens to be with transportation. Newly independent, I used to leave the house at 3:30 a.m. to walk the six and a half miles to the town where my ride to work lived. He insisted on coming to pick me up; I absolutely refused on the grounds that I could never impose on someone like that. So he felt guilty, and I felt exhausted.  
Late one night years later, my husband and I were driving to visit a friend who lived in the middle of nowhere, and the battery on our car became so run down that we had no headlights to speak of. We were crawling along the pitch black and twisting road when a young couple came along and offered to guide us to our destination. It involved these people going 30 miles out of their way. They insisted, assuring us they had nothing better to do. Upon our arrival, they turned to go back from whence they came, and being quite broke, all we could do was to wish them the same good fortune one day. It was an amazing experience for all of us. Now, every time I have a chance to do something extraordinary for someone else, I think of those two kids.
It is not easy to accept help or a gift. Someone offers to help us do something we would not otherwise be able to do (physically, financially, or through any number of limitations) and we feel beholden to him or her to return the favor or gift. It is not necessary or expected in most cases. People are good; they want to help. Doing something for someone else feels good! And you will certainly have an opportunity to lend a hand to someone else down the line.
Setting an example by involving children in random acts of kindness has a powerful impact on the type of people they grow up to be. Children need to learn that doing for others is at least as gratifying as being the recipient of material things, They need see us doing things because it is the right thing to do, rather than because we expect something in return. Likewise, they need to learn not only that it is okay to ask for and accept help when it is needed, but how to do it as well.
We need more random acts of kindness in this world. If we are on the receiving end, we need to learn grace in acceptance, and remember the pleasure we derive from an opportunity to do the same.

RDW 05-26-07, revised 10-8-09

Practicing the art of letting go

You are feeling desperate to get your youngest potty trained and he absolutely refuses. Your teenagers are making bad choices. You can’t get your spouse to stop drinking. You’re involved in a relationship that is not progressing in the direction you were hoping for. Your parents are aging and you are no longer able to care for them yourself. Someone at work can’t stand you for no apparent reason. The world seems to be falling apart and there is nothing you can do about it.
Things that we are powerless over happen every day as we scurry through our lives.
My first conscious experience of letting go was when I was in college and needed to get to a final exam on the other campus, and the shuttle bus was running late. I was fervently praying for the bus to appear, willing the traffic to make way for us, the lights to be green, when it occurred to me that I would be late and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
When raising children, it is critical to learn the art of letting go. Priorities drastically change and we must sacrifice so much of what had previously been taken for granted: time to oneself, intelligent conversation with another adult, time with friends, order, routine, sleep, a complete thought, and the freedom to just be.
As parents we feel so protective of our progeny that we want to spare them the pain of growing up. We are inclined to intervene on their behalf when it is better to let them stand up for themselves.
Letting go is to allow learning through natural consequences. For instance, I have known many well- meaning parents to drop everything to take lunch, gym clothes or a musical instrument to their elementary student, over and over again. I was not in a position to do this, so my children learned after once having to borrow lunch money or beg off of friends; wearing the spare set of clothes kept in the phys ed department for this purpose; and having to sit through music lessons despite the fact that they didn’t have an instrument to play. Meanwhile, the parent who enables this forgetfulness to go on, continues running back and forth to school several times a month.
Letting go is understanding that you can’t do it for someone else. Your child is the one who needs to finish a project in the way s/he sees fit. You can guide and even assist if asked, but if you do it for him, he is learning that he is incompetent. On the other hand, if the teacher makes him do it over, he learns that more is expected of him.
Letting go is allowing someone to be who they are without judgment. For example, nothing we do or say will change someone who tends to be messy and disorganized into a neatnik. Changing the way we react to a child’s cluttered room (helping to clean it, or closing the door on the mess) is much less frustrating than beating our head against the wall with endless nagging. 
Letting go is not trying to arrange outcomes of other people’s lives, for we each have our own lessons to learn. When we assert ourselves on behalf of our children by defending them when they get in trouble, or are graded unfairly, or not chosen for the lead in a play, we are denying them the experience and satisfaction of standing up for themselves, or coming to terms with a decision that affects them. Children grow from these experiences, and if we intervene every time they encounter a bit of rough going, they cannot learn to become independent.
There are days when the Serenity Prayer becomes my mantra: Accept the things I cannot change (e.g., my child’s temperament, the choices other people make); change the things I can; and hope that I am wise enough to know the difference. I repeat it over and over and over to the exclusion of the relentless negative thoughts that are making me miserable (he thinks I’m stupid and unreasonable; I’m always the bad guy; they don’t take me seriously). Compartmentalizing a situation in this way makes it tremendously more manageable.
Children are champs at letting go. If they squabble amongst themselves, they move on as quickly as they are distracted from the current bone of contention. They have so much to teach us. Once I threw my arms up in exasperation and pleaded “what am I going to do with you?” My wise little 2 ½ year old replied, “Hug me.” – RDW (07-03-10)

Napping is not optional

Make no mistake. Little kids will take a nap if it is routine and non-negotiable. It’s true. Nap time needs to be a priority, not worked around errands and phone calls and play dates. 

You will notice that children sleep more during a growth spurt. That’s what children do; no matter how often you admonish them to stop growing, they grow. There must be a routine for sleep.
Be consistent about when it is time for nap. When my kids were little, if nap time was to work, we had to have lunch and cleanup behind us between 12:15 and 12:45 or they would get their second wind and be going strong until late afternoon when they would either fall apart completely or crash until bed time. Some of my friends gave me such a hard time for being so anal about it, but my kids (and I!) were so much happier for our days revolving around nap time.
Plenty of fresh air, light and exercise before hand needs to be part of the routine. (One of our favorite things to do when our kids were little was to find out when the marching band practiced and chase them around the block a couple of times.)

 Good timing

If you give your kids a wholesome lunch such as whole grains, dairy products, rice and eggs to name a few, these will help to encourage sleep because they contain tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleep. Giving children junk food for lunch is certain to sabotage your efforts.

Establish a nap routine. Just like adults, kids need a few minutes to wind down if they’ve been running around. Story time and a song is a good prelude. If you do this routinely with your kids, they will begin to associate the activity with falling asleep. 

Pull the shades down, turn off the tv and the ringer on the phone. You might want to play soft music. After the kids are asleep, use the time for yourself- reading, writing, dozing, doing something creative. The housework can wait. Taking that time for yourself will make you a better parent.

It is so unfortunate that generally speaking, a nice nap in the early afternoon is frowned upon. I have always had a hard time staying awake after lunch. In fact, when I was working in the field of social work, I learned quickly not to schedule appointments with clients between the hours of one and three in the afternoon. It is amazing how intolerant people can be when you drift off as they are baring their soul. So I would bring a jolt of caffeine to my office and do paperwork during that time. And remain sluggish for the afternoon. Then I discovered the magic of putting my head down on my desk for 20 minutes.
Bad timing

I have mentioned that when my children were young, my soul purpose in the mornings was to wear them out so they would all go down for a nice long nap. When they eventually outgrew naps (after they became accustomed to kindergarten), I remained cranky and lethargic until the end of the day. Until I realized that naps are as beneficial to us as they are for kids. In fact, as Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance proclaims, “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, napping is not optional.”

Several years ago, I was blessed with the gift of being surrogate mother to a one- year-old boy. In my effort to make his time in strange surroundings with people he did not know less lonely, I stayed in the room with him as he went down for nap, so that he would not wake up completely adrift, not knowing where he was. Little did I (and does he!) know that he gave me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.
Nap time offers an opportunity to let go of the mayhem. Not to be confused with sleeping, a nap is a chance to drift for a moment from the turmoil, to experience your inner being, your soul, the essence of who you are… That state of half sleep allows you to work out creative solutions to any number of things. Having gotten into the routine of letting my self be quiet, I realized how critical to the contentment of my soul this disconnect time has become. When I am finished, I can get up and do another full days work. RDW(4-30-10)

A rhythm to our days

     Rhythms are a constant throughout our lives.  We start life hearing mother’s heart beat.  The rhythm of mother’s body brings us into this world.  We breathe, our hearts beat.  Night brings day brings night… the moon cycles, the seasons change, the waves crash upon the shore eternally, and we listen to the clock ticking in sleepless night.  

     Rhythm is the heart of life.  It makes perfect sense then that children need a predictable routine to their lives.
     As the summer starts to wind down, it is our job to help children  begin to get into their fall routine a couple of weeks before school begins.  The lazy days of summer have  swept us away in a different whirlwind of activity, and most of us are quite exhausted from the frantic pace we have managed to keep despite every intention to relax a bit.  We tend to forget that recovering from the “jet lag” of this transition does not happen overnight. 
     Back in the days when I was home with my toddlers, we settled into a routine.  Out of the house by 9:30 (rain or shine which took some doing with four kids!),  an almost daily walk downtown took an hour and a half in the cold months, three hours in the warm weather to allow for inspection of anthills and spiders weaving their webs, watching caterpillars munch, and dropping leaves and sticks into the stream.  Not to mention sitting on every rock and stump we encountered, and climbing through the cluster of bushes we called the “jungle” on the corner.  On the days we went to the playground, we stopped to wade in the creek in search of crawdads and other critters.  
     Regardless of what we were doing, my full intent for the morning was to wear those kids out so they would take a good long nap!  Timing was everything.  We had to get back home for lunch without the babies falling asleep on the last leg of our journey, for even a ten minute snooze would not only blow the luxury of peace and quiet;  they would awaken the moment the stroller rolled to a stop, and be rested enough that they would instead nap from 4:30-7:30 and be awake half the night.  
So much for early to bed!

     Likewise, if they didn’t go down for nap before 12:45 pm at the latest, they would get their second wind only to crash in the late afternoon.   This was to be avoided at all costs.  

     After nap: snack, another walk around the block,  and then Mr. Rogers and Disney while dinner was being prepared.  Dinner, baths, story time, bedtime.  Our house ran like clockwork as I realized that really, children do need rhythm to their day.
     Rhythms are at the very core of our existence.  While a certain amount of flexibility is necessary and desirable, having a routine helps us to feel grounded and in control of our lives.  It takes so much of the struggle out of our days when the children know when it is time to get dressed and why, when they can expect snack or lunch, and when it is time to go to sleep.  
     We all want to know what to expect.  It is a consolation to parents as well, allowing us to anticipate a break from the wonderful mayhem that is childhood!
RDW 8-8-09