Recently, we took a trip to visit all sorts of grandparents - grandmothers, step grandfathers, and even a few 'greats'. We hadn't been back for quite some time, and so let's just say, the grandparents made up for lost time. The closets looked like children's clothing stores, every day was a new toy, every sugary treat wish fulfilled, and macaroni and cheese whenever it was desired. Needless to say, we filled a large SUV with, well, stuff. It was touching, but also stressful transferring and keeping track of it all. Not to mention the constant whines and request for 'more', I constantly found myself longing for less.
Ironically, I had picked up this book, "Simplicity Parenting" by Kim John Payne right before we left. His book details ways to reduce the over stimulation our culture provides for children. Each day we were living out his theories about what happens to children when there are too many toys, clothes, or even, food choices. They become stressed and depleted. The constant stimulation renders them bored and restless, always on the lookout for the next stimulation. The ensuing almost daily meltdowns on the trip took shape and meaning while reading Payne's book.
We started the trip in Minneapolis and drove the four (or five, who's counting?) days back to California, or in other words, we started in snow, and yes, we ended in snow. Lake Tahoe had just settled into a two foot snowfall when we drove through. Who can resist the gleaming powder and balmy air of a California snow, not us. We didn't have the slides we had in Minnesota, but we had our hands and we rolled out some nice snowballs and snowmen. And what was the most memorable part of the trip, (besides the lovely grandparents), not the myriad toys and their bells and whistles, but from midland to the coast, it was, the snow.
I am grateful for the gifts, but after reading this, I think that next time I might offer suggestions for gifts before arriving, including ones with less batteries, and fewer buttons. Payne's suggestions regarding toys is priceless. He also really stresses a routine and rhythm as an antidote for our hectic world. A daily dinner time, eaten together as a family, a bedtime routine, and one quarter of the toys you already possess (yes, not just half, half of that). Suggestions like candlelight at bedtime, sharing favorite things from the day at the dinner table, and all in all, simplifying the schedules of the children make so much sense and he makes them doable. It's like attachment parenting for the older child. I've included some of my favorite quotes from the book below. Enjoy!
"A protected childhood allows for the slow development of identity, well being, and resiliency."
"Behavioral tendencies can be soothed or relaxed by creating calm." (In addressing ADD and other behavioral disturbances)
"When your child seems to deserve affection least, that's when they need it most" (I now tell myself this at least once a day;)
"Committing to rhythm builds trust and relational credits: a connection that is "bankable"
"Rhythms are like a place set for you at the table. An unquestioned invitation to participate, connect and belong"