We NEED space….
it’s how we thrive. Humans feel good when they have literal or metaphorical SPACE, and perhaps the two are inextricably intertwined. When you think about a lot of the modern perspectives on parenting and simple living, they have that very concept at their center. And, in my mind, there’s little separation between a philosophy of LIFE and a philosophy of PARENTING.
When you wait before you react, you create SPACE. When you listen with an open heart, you create SPACE. When you put toys away or don’t allow too many out at one time, you create SPACE. When you go for a walk, you are walking through open SPACE.
When our heads are cluttered and our living spaces are cluttered, we don’t have the room to healthily process emotions and thoughts. Life can become very overwhelming for adults and kids alike. And it’s a self-perpetuating cycle – when there are too many toys or things in a space and there isn’t space to put them, there’s no way to even clean up and it makes the motivation to do so difficult to muster. And everyone spends their time managing the things instead of living or playing. I say this as a person who has been there, and still struggles to keep stuff at bay. At some point you ask yourself, “Where does all the time go??”
For the record, this isn’t my kitchen, but it’s nice, isn’t it?
Fewer things cluttering space is simplicity…
When there are fewer things to put away, it is easier to teach your children the full cycle: taking something out, playing with it, then putting it away.
It’s something we all struggle with. We live in a time of such readily accessible distraction that leaving things undone is easy to do. “I’ll do it later.” We tell ourselves. And, of course, sometimes it isn’t simply that we dive into distraction, but that there are too many things to attend to. But when we have the chance and the ability (which is more often than you think), addressing what needs to be addressed creates both physical and mental space. The tasks are not left literally out and clinging to our minds until they are complete (and lists are essential for the things that are left..it gives your brain some…space.)
And it’s not just about the number of things in a space – it can also be about the safety of that space. In RIE parenting, one of the big concepts in a “Yes Space.” A space where a child, baby or toddler can be allowed to experience freedom and explore. A place where their caretaker isn’t having to hover over them and keep them from sticking something into an outlet. But the cool thing is that it works both ways. Both the caretaker and the child benefit from this safe space. Both get a chance to take a breath, to relax, to be. They both benefit from the creation of space.
The way we choose to respond to things also has the potential to create space….
Waiting to react is a huge challenge for me. I was an only child, but am raising three. During the work week hours it’s just me and it can be intense at times. I will just slip away to change the laundry and suddenly there will be a crash or yelling. I come into the room with adrenaline coursing through my veins and only the two angry parties to describe the injustice; one of who is almost three, the other six. I am constantly working to remember to take a breath in this moment. I have learned over and over that if I assume guilt for one or the other I am usually wrong. It doesn’t matter who is holding the broken toy when I get there. I don’t really understand what was happening and if I take the time to create space and give everyone a voice, it’s much easier to work it out.
Going outside is an easy way to experience space.
It’s not always easy, but it works almost every time. “Getting a breath of fresh air” is literally a saying for a reason. It’s a reset. It gets you out of your own head. It’s a daily practice for people who are innovators. Going outside does wonders for kids and for all of us, when things get overwhelming. The kids run around and get all that pent up energy out, the sounds of their fun released into the air instead of bouncing off our walls. We can take a breath and have the room to relax. Space is out there, waiting for us, we just have to be willing to put on the right clothes.
Look at this kid. I don’t know who he is, but he sure looks happy to be outside!
Experiences over gifts…
This is a new trend among more and more parents who are realizing that too much stuff isn’t worth it. Kids value time spent together over the short term gratification of ripping open the paper wrapping on a gift (I promise!) They want to share their lives with you, not watch you pick up the living room floor for the trillionth time. Parents need to become the sieve for the onslaught of things that come your way when you have kids; things you are told you ‘need’ when you have a baby; things you are told you ‘need’ to boost your toddlers’ development; things that people and family send in the form of gifts/clothing/toys. You don’t want to hurt feelings, people mean well, and it’s fun to give gifts. And I’m not advocating a no-gift lifestyle. I’m just suggesting that each new thing that comes into your life be evaluated – as Marie Kondo asks of each item: “Does it bring you/your child JOY?”
The pendulum swings…
In a time when it’s generally easy to accumulate things and allow ourselves to over complicate our lives with various forms of constant input – people are starting to see the value and the importance of creating space in their lives. There are millions of opportunities to create space in our every day lives – even the busiest ones. It’s in the quick pause to take a breath before moving on to the next task. It’s in the choice to walk home without the earphones in. It’s in the choice to wait before you react to your children when they’ve done something upsetting. It’s in the choice to keep some toys out of sight, in a box, so that they may focus on just a few that are available to them. It’s in the choice get rid of the belongings that no longer bring you JOY. It’s in the choice to cultivate times of silence in your home, so that your children can experience quietness.
Space is all around us…
It’s there for the taking, the cultivating, the respecting and the experiencing. It is essential to our well-being and best of all: it’s FREE.