Turning it All Off for Awhile

Last weekend I had the absolute joy and pleasure of spending 48 hours immersed in spontaneous, creative play with my eight year old. We canceled all social engagements, turned off the phone and all other electronics, then decided any chores that “needed” to get done could wait.

Instead, with a bucket of chocolate soy ice cream (each) in hand, we returned to bed and read ‘Harry Potter’ for four hours. By noon we emerged, slightly confused, into the ‘real’ world, which after four hours absorbed in Joanne Rowling’s fascinating world of witches, muggles, and Quiditch practice no longer felt real. We stumbled into the kitchen for some more nourishing food, and spent the afternoon creating new family recipes. Some worked some didn’t but Raven was so proud of his recipes and new flavour combinations that we ate them all. (Ever had tofu with three tablespoons of cinnamon, tomato sauce and Tamari? – Don’t)

Full of food and ready to greet the day we moved outside to the remaining piles of snow, remnants of shoveling off the roof mid winter. Sledding quickly turned into a snowball fight that left the two of us rolling around the muddy yard laughing until it hurt. My son, being eight, is so completely alive in the moment, that he responded to this focussed attention with complete abandon. He jumped into it, embraced it, reveled in it, and finally relaxed into; it knowing that today it would last.

That night we fell asleep, not at eight when the clock and the schedule demanded, but at some unknown time when we were tired. Exhausted actually, the kind of exhaustion that comes from a deeply satisfying experience fully lived. The next morning started much the same minus the ice cream. Something was different though, Raven was sad for a good portion of the morning and when I finished reading he expressed a deep frustration by throwing the book, stomping around and yelling for twenty minutes. Finally, he collapsed on the couch in tears, anger spent to be replaced by the underlying sadness.

While I sat with Raven listening to his quieting sobs, I reflected on the past two days and the freedom we both felt in following our hearts. I realized he had felt so loved, so held and cared for that he found the space to express and release pent up emotions. It was beautiful and as connecting for us as the laughter and play had been. When he was done, I held him close until he fell to sleep, his body soft and relaxed from the release of tension.

Finding time for our children takes on new meaning when we look at the multitude of short and long term benefits we all receive from the nourishing connections that are created and sustained. We may be greeted with hard to hear words and actions from our children during this time but I suggest we take that as a sign our efforts have been appreciated. Our children feel safest when they know they can express themselves freely, our love unconditional and accepting. It doesn’t have to be a full weekend, even half an hour of a parents full presence can create enough safety and space for a child to feel comfortable to share hidden parts of themselves.