It has been tough going in my Daycare World this week. I knew we needed to break out of the bad cycle that was repeating. I knew exhaustion was a factor. I knew enough to look at 'the source' (that would be me) first.
These little people are mirrors of the people they spend time with. Their actions, their voices, their words are a reflection of the world around them.
So I was a little haunted by the phrase my little (almost) two year old adopted with a fervor this week. "Go play!"
Yes, it had an exclamation mark at the end of it. Yes it was said sternly. And yes! Yes! Yes! It was on auto-repeat.
Then I listened to myself.
These little guys have been flocking to me any time I light in one spot. My internal conversation goes something like this, "Why don't kids know how to play on their own anymore?" "Can't I just sit here and watch?" "Why do they want me to entertain them?" "I. Just. Need. A. Little. Space."
Breathe in. Breathe out. Count to ten. Nap time is coming.
Nap time is another thing that has me a little rankled. My three-year-old is not napping any more. She is a talker. She would be quite happy to chat her way through nap time. But ... I. Just. Need. A. Little. Space. !. !. !.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
I tried a few different things before I stumbled into what worked best for me. What worked for me didn't work for her mom. We now spend 'quiet time' in the same room together. I feel shackled to my responsibilities and I am missing my break. Terribly.
Add the exhaustion factor I have been feeling this week, as the technicalities of getting this book off of my plate and onto the printing press ... and you have a tired old babysitter who sits down and directs the kids to "Go play!"
Our days are so repetitive. It feels like we do the same thing over and over. Day after day. New becomes old very, very fast in the eyes of the 'under three' set. I am so out of new tricks that I feel like a grumpy old dog.
Yesterday we set off on a walk and I really had no idea where we were going. Sometimes that is a very good thing (other times? not so much). Yesterday, it was good.
It was cool, but warm. It was damp from a little misty rain we had the day prior and overnight. It was not ideal "let's go play in the playground" weather.
I made my choice due to these factors. I did not want to come home with four wet, dirty and sandy kids. I thought I would take them to the school grounds and just let them run and play.
There is a walking path that goes past both of the schools in our neighborhood. They have a few landscaping mounds, a small toboggan 'hill' and various bunches of trees which have turned color and shed a good deal of their leaves. We have been walking to these trees and I have been taking 'fall' pictures with the kids, because the colors are so pretty.
Yesterday, as the older two wanted to run off ahead and 'climb the mountain', I redirected them to the little bunches of trees clustered together. "Let's check them out", I said (more as a distraction and a method of keeping everyone together than anything else). What happened instead turned out to be a child's wonderland.
There are well worn paths in and around and through these little clusters of trees. The conditions were ideal. Half of the leaves were on the ground, so I could see where my little charges were at all times but half of the leaves were on the trees which made the kids feel like they were in a real forest.
The older girls ran and 'hid' from one another. They had chasing games. They hid and they sought each other out. To my littler guys, the forest was one great big obstacle course. It took great concentration to weave in and out of the trees like the bigger kids.
I stood back and took pictures. Lots of pictures. It was magical.
The kids were happy. I was happy. No one was looking to be entertained. They were doing what kids do best. Running and exploring and feeling like they were discovering the world.
At one point, my wise little three year old exclaimed, "This is a Magical Forest!" And it was.
I felt my inner child resurface as I watched the kids discovering this Enchanted Forest. I remember doing the same thing when I was little. It took me back to the 'forest' of trees in behind our home when we lived on the farm.
It was a magical outing. Now if only we could find magic like this every day ...