By Erin Loechner
There are few things I consider myself an expert in, but truth be told: if recharging one’s energy with littles underfoot were an Olympic sport (missed opportunity, Greece), I like to think I’d at least take home a bronze.
Whatever you call it: recharging, resting, introvert breaks, “me” time – it can all feel so, so elusive when you’ve got young kids. More often than not, the moment you’ve found yourself sitting on the sofa with a George Saunders is the moment your children have realized the kitchen faucet sprayer makes for an excellent fireman’s hose.
And so, if you’re in the trenches (or drenches, mothers of said firemen), here are a few ways I’ve found to infuse my day with a few exhales here and there:
WHEN YOU NEED QUIET
1. Switch on a read-aloud podcast.
I suppose this will require assessment over what type of quiet you need, but for me, “quiet” generally falls under the category of “I don’t want to answer any more questions or witness any arguments for the next twenty minutes.” Thus, the podcast.
The trick here is that you don’t announce it, you simply turn it on and busy yourself elsewhere while you leave those fresh young minds to process someone else’s words for a second or two. My favorites? Circle Round, Tales from the Lily Pad, Sparkle Stories.
2. Host tea time.
When Scout goes down for his (increasingly rare) nap, Bee and I often gather a few blankets and our library books and head out to the back deck for “tea”. She could care less for the tea, but a giant bowl of popcorn keeps her lost in a book until we’re down to the kernels.
WHEN YOU NEED SPACE
1. Visit your adopted tree.
If ever there were a sentence, right? This one sounds odd at best, but it’s my secret back pocket trick and I stand behind it 100%. The gist is simple: find a tree nearby, preferably one your little can walk to alone (ours is in the backyard). If you’re a city dweller, an indoor plant will get the job done, or if you don’t mind a tiny trek to the local park, have at it. Next: let your little choose a tree to “adopt”. Encourage them to check on it daily, to count its leaves, survey its bark. Any new dwellers hiding? Any changes to note? If they’re of age and inclination, a “tree report” notebook is a fun little addition, but certainly optional.
I don’t know why it works, nor do I know that it must be a tree. But I do know this: when little ones are feeling frenzied and tantrum-y, assigning them some ownership over something they can control (or perceive to control) is never a bad thing, nor is shooing them out into the midday sun for some fresh air and nature’s medicine. It’s a healthy reminder for all involved that there does, indeed, exist life outside your own four walls, and that there is bigness to be found.
2. Take a drive.
This sounds counter-intuitive, being that needing space and cooping yourself up in a car with small children don’t exactly align. But I’ve found that, often, when I think I need space, what I actually need is to not be touched/climbed over/jumped on/wrestled. I need to know I won’t be changing a diaper for the next few minutes, that I won’t be cutting apple slices or tying a shoe or fixing a train track. I need just a small breath of control amidst the chaos.
So we hop in the car and we head to nowhere – a nearby lake to wave at the ducks, a drive-thru treat from our friends’ coffee shop, a short trip downtown to count windows on tall buildings.
Here’s my general rule: Conveniently “forget” everyone’s shoes. This way, inevitably, when a kid wants to hop out and seek adventure, you’ve got a good enough reason to keep right on driving by. There’s a time and a place for romping around, but right now, this is your 20 minutes to decompress and return home rested(ish).