Over the Christmas holidays I spent a lot of time thinking and researching about a method of education/child raising called Waldorf. Many people reading this will be very familiar with the concepts but if not I’ll give you a rough idea of my interpretation.
Waldorf, created by Rudolph Steiner at the beginning of the 20th Century, focuses on incorporating certain elements into a child’s life and education. A beautiful environment, filled with natural materials and imagination; an education directed by the child’s readiness not by age rules; and a life guided by a predictable rhythm in harmony with the cycles of the natural world.
I’m sure that my explanation is a vast oversimplification but these are the elements that appeal to me the most. As I was thinking about our family and how these ideas fit in with us I kept returning to the concepts of rhythm and harmony. We already follow the Wheel of the Year, the old celtic celebrations based on the natural world and the changing of the seasons, but I struggled to find a continuous thread to help bring harmony to our every day lives. I decided to begin, in a typically contrary way, at the end of my days. So we began with bedtime.
I really don’t enjoy the phrase ‘Bedtime Battles’, it seems to appear with annoying frequency on the front of parenting magazines along with the ubiquitous ‘How to keep your child out of your bed’, assuming that every parent wants their child out of their bed. Anyway, I digress. There is no getting away from it though, our evenings and bedtime in particular were becoming a bit, well, battley.
So I had a think about the key stress points and decided to rearrange our routine to (hopefully) remove as much of the stress as possible. One of the key elements that I happened upon out of sheer desperation was the Quiet Time Candle. I wanted to give Huwyl a visual cue that from this time onwards we are entering into a more gentle mode of being. This is directly in contrast with the screaming, running, spinning maniac that was appearing after dinner time. My head could not cope and it was not helping the little man to wind down for bed so the candle was born.
Using one of the lamps we made for Solstice I proclaimed that when the candle is lit there is no running, shouting or ‘behaving like a loon’. This may seem non specific but Huwyl and I know what it means and that is all that matters. The amazing thing, the really amazing thing, is that it worked. From the candle going on it only takes gentle reminders to bring Huwyl back from the beginnings of manic to a more relaxed and gentle state. He even reminds me to put on the candle if I forget!
Alongside the candle were a couple of other key measures. Story time with Daddy happens downstairs after supper while Mummy gets Neirin to sleep. That way we are eliminating the teeth brushing battle (another one) and there is pleasant bonding time for bean and Daddy. After tooth brushing with Mummy, Huwyl gets an imagination story (he gives me a few elements and I make up a story for him) and then snuggles to sleep.
Although this is our ideal routine, meaning it doesn’t always pan out like this, I have found that when we stick to this rhythm things seem to go along a lot more smoothly. The children react well to a familiar pace and Mummy and Daddy can summon that last shred of patience, energy and creativity knowing that an end to the day is in sight.
Insert joyous sighs of contentment here.
Is there anything more wonderful than the sights and sounds of peacefully slumbering beans? The answer to that question my friends, is No.