Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Processing time

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of our trip were, it is fair to say, composed of fairly nonstop new experiences. Even the whole day at Philadelphia airport, which was not a whole lot of fun, was at least exciting--lots of new things to see, a lot of stimulation for the kids. Then new beds to sleep in, new people to meet (only Barak really remembered Grandma E and Grandpa M from their last visit a year ago), a different environment, so many new things to see and do. They handled it great, in general.

But Wednesday morning did not start out well. Everyone, with the possible exception of Avtalyon, got out of bed acting like they already needed a nap. Kvetch kvetch kvetch, fight fight fight. You want me to do what? I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that. You want me to come? Um, no, I'm busy. Iyyar seemed to have noticed that there was nowhere for him to have a time-out so decided to push things until he got one, to see what happened; I exiled him to the base of the stairs. That worked, but as he was calming down, Grandma M came along and, not knowing why he was there, told him to move because nobody could go up and down the stairs. More hysterics, &c.

The original plan for Wednesday had been to play in Grandma E's yard/pasture in the morning and go swimming in the creek with a friend at lunchtime. By 9 am it was clear this was not happening. I was OK with taking three small kids creek-swimming with another friend with similarly-aged kids, not in tow; two responsible mothers to three kids I thought was OK. But not when the kids were not being cooperative. I called and we changed plans to having a picnic near a (fenced) waterfall, a good 20-minute drive away; I thought the drive might calm them down, and the environment would be a lot less dangerous. That was fun, and the kids enjoyed running around, but Barak spent most of his time with the copy of Strega Nona and the Magic Pasta Pot he found in the back seat. Behavior improved marginally, but not all that much.

Then my friend, who had to get back to work, dropped us off at Saba and Savta's house, where we'd arranged to spend the afternoon and then have dinner (spaghetti and meatballs, possibly Iyyar's favorite food ever. Actually, he can skip the spaghetti--he just wants the meatballs.) We walked in and discovered that she had pulled out three or four great big boxes of toys from when her kids were little--all those great old Fisher-Price toys I remember from the 70s, like the airport and the airplane and the baggage carts and all of that. And the barn, with the animals, and lots of little cars and tractors. The kids went straight from the door to the toys, sat down, and started playing. There were some minor altercations (the airplane, oh the airplane) and Iyyar's tummy was not in the best shape until he finally pooped after an hour or so, but basically they just played. After Iyyar was feeling better, he got in on the action in earnest and they played. And played. And played.

Savta and I had planned to go to the local supermarket, which has acquired a kosher section since I last lived there, and pick up snacks for the flight home. I had assumed we'd bring the whole contingent, since ordinarily nobody would have any thoughts about turning down a ride in the car to the store. But today? No interest at all. "Do you want to come in the car to the store?" They barely looked up. "No." "Do you just want to stay here with Saba?" "Yeah. I just want to stay here and play." Iyyar had about the same answer. I looked at Saba. He suggested we sit in the driveway for a minute before pulling out. Barak is now more OK with being places without me but Iyyar generally likes to go where I go, so I thought this was a good suggestion. Savta and I went out to the car, buckled in Avtalyon, and waited. Nope. We pulled out and went shopping. I kept checking my cell phone, but nobody called. Avtalyon promptly fell asleep in the carseat and stayed asleep the whole time we shopped.

We got back home and the scene was completely unchanged. Barak and Iyyar on the floor playing, Saba standing there, amused, observing. They'd barely noticed when we had left and they barely noticed when we got back. Saba went off to the bus stop to pick up Abba, who'd been gone for going on three days. They hardly registered when he walked in. Dinner went on the table and they ate--Iyyar his meatballs, Barak his plain noodles, Avtalyon a little bit of everything--and promptly went back to playing, until it was finally time to go back to Grandma E's at around 7. They'd been playing for five hours straight. Except for stopping to eat--and with an early lunch and no afternoon snack, they had to have been hungry--they'd barely looked up the whole time.

And not only did they play nicely, but when we left they were children transformed. They were happy. They were cooperative. They went to bed nicely. They woke up the next day perfectly delightful, which was good because that was our big day to visit the fire station and the farm. It was clear that what they'd needed hadn't been a good night's sleep--it had been a good afternoon of quiet, uninterrupted, left-to-their-own-devices, familiar play. They needed processing time for all the new experiences.

I can't tell you how much this struck me--how clear it was that they had needed, really needed, that time to play. It made me think about how I feel about knitting. When I'm really really busy, what upsets me the most is not so much the lack of sleep--although I don't love that--or time to see friends or anything like that. What I hate is when I am really truly too busy to knit, even a little. I need that knitting time. I need the time to sit and let my hands do their thing and let my mind wander. I need it so much that sometimes, even when any sane person would go to bed, I sit down and knit for half an hour first--and we are talking about late at night here, when I REALLY should be asleep. But I need the knitting time more. It's not just time to veg. It's time to let my brain catch up to where it needs to be.

Next Sunday, I'm meeting up with Sarah to go to an all-day fiber event. I'm leaving here at 5:30 am and won't be back till 7 PM. I'll have hours and hours and HOURS to knit. I can't wait. :)


kata said...

I can so relate to this: needing quiet peaceful processing time.

We have a house guest for all this summer who is perfectly lovely but has been surprisingly hard for me to deal with anyway. When Z's asleep he's here and hanging out in the living room, and since our house is on the small side that means I never really get alone time. I'm shocked at how hard I find this.

miriamp said...

I sometimes sneak off to the basement to make bracelets and sort beads when I really truly need to.

First and foremost, though, reading does this for me -- I'll reread something rather than do something more productive, because I need the down time.

LC said...

DH thinks I'm nuts - and often gets annoyed - when I complain about exhaustion and then stay downstairs long after he's gone up (to the computer as often as bed, mind you).

I'm reading, or knitting - thank you, uberimma, that's *your* influence :) - and as much as I need the sleep, without the down time first, it doesn't help.

Alisha said...

I think it's a bit of a revelation -- to me at least -- that kids need that too. It's not surprising at all, but I think a lot of adults get caught up in the idea that what we need down time for is to allow our brains to relax from the complexity of our lives, and we think that kids play all day anyway so what is there to decompress from? But really, everything stimulating from which they can learn is work, for children, and then quiet, usual playtime is just as necessary for processing. Lesson duly noted.