Friday, 6 May 2016

Parenting: "Holding the space"

Many years ago both my oldest two children were in a Waldorf inspired nursery school. They were in nursery school there and loved it. Honestly, it was really really good. And that is coming from someone who is convinced home education is better for the majority of children. If it would have been possible I probably would have let my younger children have a part-time Waldorf nursery school experience. Simply because of the calmness, and the fun the oldest two had there. The oldest two were very different children, so I expect my younger children to have enjoyed it as well. I would certainly not have made them, it would have had to be fun. But... I digress.

During the time the oldest two were in the Waldorf nursery school I noticed that the teacher was not constantly hoovering over the children. She (Juffie Hanneke) let them be a lot, also outside. She would pay attention to the children, but be on the side lines. She would certainly prevent problems from arising when she noticed things weren't so smooth any more. She would gently guide the children away from the problem situation. This was something I found totally fascinating. Of course some kids would end up in arguments, as this is also part of normal life. But the way she simply was present and would notice things and prevent things from getting out of hand, was just very impressive. 

I learned that in groups, such as La Leche League (LLL), Attachment Parenting International (API) and Attachment Parenting Europe (APEU) this happens similarly. I have been / am a leader for both. Basically the leader of the group keeps tabs on conversation when the main topic has been discussed. After that usually smaller groups emerge in which people discuss the topic or other topics. What can happen is that people in those small groups disagree, so the leader of the group moves from one group to another in her conversation to just keep tabs on things, so that things do not get out of hand or that concepts that are completely contrary to the goal of the group get put forward as being the view of LLL or API or APEU. That way the meeting is enjoyable for all present.

So I saw a similarity in how things were done in various settings and found it quite interesting to see the interaction in groups of people and realised that this may actually be something that comes natural to a lot of people. So I watched videos of people living in hunter gatherer tribes and read books about how people in various tribes interact. I learned from the book "The Continuum Concept" that also the Yequana have a similar way of interacting, not just between adults, but also with their children. They are in a constant type of contact. This is, especially with hunter gatherer tribes, often quite inconspicuous. And honestly, it should be like that. Hoovering, or helicopter parents, do not do their kids any favours are they are constantly on top of them. This concept of "holding the space" is quite a different one.

Over time I learned how to do it, as unfortunately it didn't come natural to me. So what one does is you go about your business and do all your adult work, chores and what have you. But while you do it, you make sure that they are things you can do without it needing your full attention. Because you do keep a little bit of your attention on your children. So you would not try to learn a new skill, while you are with your children. But you could knit, crochet, cook or such. This of course when you are not actively interacting with your children, as they you have their attention anyway. This is for times of free play. I usually do not go outside with them when they are outside, as they are with friends then and things rarely get out of hand. In case things do not feel right for my children, they simply come home.

The nursery teacher that I previously spoke of was usually doing things like knitting, sewing, crochet, cutting vegetables, making bread dough, preparing things for a craft, or such things. But she always had an eye on the group, despite the fact that she wasn't actively looking at them. It gave a lovely safe environment where the children felt quite free. 

Over the years, since I have observed juffie Hanneke do her work, I have seen a deterioration in the way people in general interact with their children. What I noticed is that with the increase of gadgets, such as smart phones, tablets and such, parents are often very focussed on those and are often frequently irritated with their children for not having the patience to wait until they are done. I have had to learn to keep my gadgets at bay. I can do a lot of work on my gadget when the children are outside or asleep, or actually reading a book or such, but I do have to keep in mind to stop the moment they are done or awake, or simply need me. I am their mother and they should be able to count on me being there for them when necessary. Humans by nature expect their parents to be there for them. Reading about hunter gatherer tribes and watching videos in which I saw the interaction made me realise how much it is natural and how very far from nature we in the western world are away from that. But children in the western world are not born with a different set of expectations than children in other ends of the world. They all have the same expectation set and need to have those met to grow up happy and healthy.

So these days, I am actually not doing bad at all with "holding the space". I did read a lot about it. Especially Melisa Nielsen from Waldorf Essentials, has been very helpful in helping me learn about it. I still read about it as it is simply fascinating to me. But these days I can properly practise it as well. I do have to make sure that I keep my phone and such away during "working hours". I have started seeing my time with my children as precious "working time". At work I cannot be on my phone the whole time either. I have to actually do my work, so why would it be fine to be on it all the time at home. Back in the day when my oldest two were young I actually didn't have anything but a landline and nobody expected me to always immediately reply to them, as that was simply not an option. So these days I have adopted a similar way of dealing with things. I pick up the phone when I have the possibility, such as being in a waiting room somewhere or in public transport. But at home my phone is away from me and I only pick it up when I can. This has resulted in a whole lot less stress for all of us. I actually have started loving it. I do not miss my gadgets. I have also deinstalled facebook from my phone. Initially because it totally messed up my phone, but then realised how much precious time it took from me. I love handwork and facebook was taking time away from that. While I do handwork I am available to my children. On facebook I was not. So these days I still do use facebook, but not constantly. I was already lucky to never have had a contract for my phone with which I was constantly online, so I had not gotten used to that yet :-) Now I refuse to have that.

I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings. Feel free to comment or ask a question. I'd love to hear from you.

Have a lovely day!