“I ALWAYS forget that you still have a little one!” Something that I’ve gotten many times in the last few years. They see my biggest boy, with his deep voice and starter ‘stache, and assume that I’m well out of those “baby” years. In many respects, I am… since my youngest is now 5. Our summer road trips no longer include pack and plays and portable highchairs. Nor do they include cars overflowing with games and activities to keep them busy. But looking back at trips over the years and my life with four monsters, there is one thing we do that I can honestly say keeps me alive. It’s something that ANY parent can do for a little relief during those years of exhaustion, and especially during family vacations. And in my home, we call it “quiet time”.
Now I am NO parenting expert. But considering the fact that we’ve used this FOR ALL FOUR KIDS and still do, I would venture to say that it could work beautifully in your home too. Maybe it’s that I’m a cranky 45 year old mom who simply doesn’t have the energy to chase a VERY stubborn 5 year old anymore. Or maybe things are getting loud and I need some quiet. Or maybe it’s that to-do list a mile long. No matter what, this carved out time in our day has been responsible for MAJOR reenergizing and productivity throughout our years as parents.
A QUIET START TO OUR DAY
God bless the parent who can, but I CANNOT be woken up by a child and be catapulted into my day. I need a few hours of quiet and coffee in hand to start my day right. So whether we’re traveling or not, our first quiet time happens right out of the gate. The boys are to stay in their rooms and stay busy until the clock hits the appropriate time (7:30 these days.) When the boys would wake in cribs years ago, I had a red and green stoplight clock to make it clear that it was not yet time to start the day. This set the stage for years of being able to keep themselves entertained.
My capacity is SO low these days, that my littles are not allowed to come down until they see my big boys, out their window, leaving for the bus. Yes, that’s right… I can only manage two at once. That “daily start time” changes depending on stage of life and vacation situations. But one thing my boys ALWAYS ask that first night of vacation: “Mom, what are the rules for the morning?” In other words… what time can we come out? Laying out their “rules” has always helped them have clear expectations of how the upcoming days will flow.
THE MUCH NEEDED AFTERNOON “REST”
This mid-afternoon quiet time used to result in ACTUAL sleep. It occasionally still does, like after a sun-filled morning on the beach. As the kids get older and begin protesting “nap time”, I’m always sure to share that this is NOT a nap! This is just a time to rest your body so you can make it to your actual bedtime. And if your body is tired enough, it will turn into a nap. Stressing the fact that this is just time to bring some quiet to the house, and not to NAP, per say, always helps to make the sell. And as with morning quiet time, they’ll usually ask when they can come out. Which I try to keep fairly consistent while travelling, and usually results in 1-2 hours of quiet.
BUT MY KIDS WILL NEVER GO FOR IT
Although we are quite faithful to our quiet mornings, we may go months without a mid-afternoon quiet time. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t ever do it again. What has worked well, as previously mentioned, is outlining (about) how your days will flow, and at what point in the day this will occur. It won’t be perfect, and that time may slide around depending on your daily activities. But I WOULD recommend finding a tiny sliver of time to do it daily. Even if it’s 10 minutes right before dinner. This keeps it part of the daily expectation and makes it clear that it is not negotiable.
WHAT DO THEY ACTUALLY DO DURING THIS TIME?
This has evolved over the years, for SURE, with age and interest. Currently our oldest will listen to EDM music in his headphones (not so calming). My middles will either read on their kindles or use their laptops. And my little is usually whipping up breakfast with his cooking set, watching Mickey or playing an ipad or leapfrog game. Gone are the days of no screens in the rooms. But with my littles, I do try to break up screen time. For example, he must color and play cars for 45 minutes, and if he sits quietly, he may have the ipad for 45 minutes. This provides both incentive for him and relief for us.
I’ve used the term “selfish parenting” for years. I’m not ashamed to use it because I know myself and my limitations. And I know that if I am feeling drained or overwhelmed, I am impatient and simply NOT a good mom. Our quiet time routines, especially when traveling, continue to give me the energy I need to get through a day of fun with four. And what parent COULDN’T use that energy? Try it during one of your upcoming trips, and I can assure you that you’ll never go back.