Understanding a need for quiet space as our children and their worlds grow louder, busier and more crowded.
Heavy footsteps stomp through the house. I hear the thud of a school bag being flung onto the floor. The door of the shoe cabinet slams and trudging continues as she heads towards the back of the house, where she will throw her socks sometimes absent mindedly into the recycling bin rather than the laundry basket. I hear running water as she splashes away cleaning her hands and then shouts out habitually, “Hi Mom, I’m home!”
At this point, my first instincts are to fly down the stairs, sweep her up in a big hug, slap a sloppy kiss on her sticky cheeks and enthusiastically ask to hear about every single minute of her day at school. I have learnt to hold back. Having long accepted, albeit grudgingly, that she prefers to be left alone to read while she has her post school meal to gaze at trees in the garden in the hopes of spotting another species of bird or clap at scurrying squirrels.
I can usually tell if she’s had a rough day at school based on the next few seconds. If she is whining, finding fault with what has been prepared for her lunch, it hasn’t been a great day. If she starts a chirpy conversation or shouts for me to come down for a chat, it’s been a good one. This year, I have definitely received fewer invitations.
The school year began earlier this year and her class has been reshuffled to include some old friends and new faces. I had the opportunity to ask my elder child what she experienced during the transition from the second to the third academic year of primary school. I added that I had been trying to figure out why her sister seemed more agitated in the afternoons this year.
“Mom, don’t you know?” she queried accusingly. She went on to remind me that it was the year that student numbers per class increased from just over thirty students to forty. “Of course, she’s cranky. I felt my personal space invaded. There are just so many people in the class of the same (physical) size as last year. We are all squeezed in! But the tables and chairs are higher. I guess they expect us to grow.” She went on to lament about the higher noise levels and the crowding when they gathered together for group work or when the teacher summoned them to view an exhibit. “The lines are also longer when we have to hand in our work and people always shoving or cutting queue.”
I made a mental note to give our growing children space. Deliberate quiet moments of sanctuary. No fretting at every turn, or questioning upon hearing that she may have chosen to spend recess alone or decline playdate invitations. Instead, I am now conscious that space at home, helps her regulate her need for calm away from chaos.