My first son spoiled me rotten. He was a good sleeper, and he used to take long naps in the afternoon. Call me what you will, but when he reached the point this past year when he didn’t need those naps anymore, it was hard to give up that time for myself.
This is when I took my own mother’s advice and started “quiet time.” Quiet time has served more than one purpose. There are days that I know my son does need a nap, but I can no longer force him to take one. He knows how to get out of his bed, and I saw quickly that naptime was a battle I could not win. With quiet time, however, my son sometimes takes a nap on his own accord. On the days he does not take a nap, I suppose he does not need one.
At first my rule was that he needed to play by himself in his room for at least one hour. It wasn’t long before I realized that keeping him in his room was not going to work, so I didn’t object when he would sneak out. As long as he was being quiet and good, I let him have the run of the upstairs. My decision was validated when I read the book, The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian, which I wrote a column about a while back. In it, Gurian explains how boys need a lot of space to play.
On the days my son is high maintenance, quiet time may only last thirty minutes. Most days, however, quiet time is fairly successful.
My son will start playing in his room, and then he’ll usually move into the bathroom. We have a green mat in the bathroom, and he has explained to me that it is the “grass” for his animals to stand on. Sometimes he moves down to the guest room, and more often than not, he’ll fall asleep on the guest bed. Other times he will sleep in his bed.
Of course, quiet time is not always quiet. He calls down to me several times. Sometimes he needs help with something. Other times I know he just wants attention. There have been many days that I have questioned my decision to do quiet time, especially when he sings out, “I don’t waaaant to do quiet time!” When he looks at me with those pitiful eyes, I imagine him as an adult, lamenting to a future confidant: “My mother made me do quiet time. Oh, the scars I have suffered!”
Ridiculous, I know. This is why I remain firm in my decision to do quiet time. I know that it’s a good thing to make my child play by himself. My unspoken rule for quiet time is that he does not take with him any kind of gadget or media outlet. He does not need any fancy toys that make loud noises or flash bright lights. He is by himself with a few toys and his imagination.
When I’m sitting downstairs and hear his indiscernible banter as he talks to himself, and when I hear him scamper down the hall, clearly on some kind of mission, I know that I have done the right thing. I have even noticed that he is increasingly able to play by himself at other times too, which may be natural as he gets older, but I will still insist that he does quiet time. It gives me some (mostly) uninterrupted time that I can spend with his baby brother, or, if I’m very lucky and my baby naps at that time, I get to sit. By myself!
Even if it’s just 15 minutes, I am a better mama for getting my quiet time.
Shelli Bond Pabis is a Winder resident and columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.