Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Simple Play

Simple Play

Maybe it's because we're just getting off of a long period of rainy days spent indoors, but I've been feeling overwhelmed by all the toys, art stuff and general kid clutter that has been taking over our house. I came to the realization that we really do have too much stuff! From the simple things like constantly having to step over toys that always seem to find their way to the floor to never being able to find one of three (!!) pairs of kid scissors because they are buried under piles of papers and crayons... I just really felt like our enough was too much, so I've started the process of letting go.

The hardest things to let go of have been the toys. The beautiful, Waldorf wooden toys. When the toy safety issues and recalls made headlines years ago, I became much more mindful of the kinds of toys I wanted my boys to play with. It was at that time that I learned about Waldorf education and wanted to surround my children with these breathtakingly beautiful pieces of art that were Waldorf toys. I wanted the toys that they touch to be natural and warm. But sometimes too much of a good thing, can still be too much. I've come to realize that having these playthings, as nice as they are, do not make a Waldorf family. It's about my sons and letting them be who they are. It's about Ivan and I supporting them, stepping back probably more than we're used to... and it's about giving them an environment where their imaginations can run free.

My dear friend Christine Schreier is an artisan who makes beautiful Waldorf dolls. She once told me a story about being at a Waldorf School Faire and having a mother approach her at her booth. It appeared that the woman was having a difficult time choosing a doll for her daughter. After asking her questions about the child's favorite colors and preferences, Christine learned that the child already had 10 dolls! So proving herself to be the worst salesperson ever (but probably wisest adviser), Christine gently explained to the woman that to her daughter, those 10 dolls were 10 children for her to care for, FAR too many for anyone to handle! The woman was visibly relieved to not have the burden to choose one... but came back later to buy one for herself! I think too often as parents, we buy for our children what we want for ourselves. I know that I have been very guilty of that and that while my sons have enjoyed the pretty toys to some extent, having so many of them have made them each less special.

Luca and his baby
Luca and his baby

So I've spent the past week gathering up the toys that I thought all good Waldorf families have... wooden blocks of all kinds, doll furniture, European games and I've sold them. It was hard at first, I kept thinking "what if the boys miss them!" or ridiculously "are they going to miss out on learning something if we don't have it?!"... it should come as no surprise that neither of those things has happened. Instead, our savings account is much healthier from the recent infusion of cash and more importantly, it feels like we can finally breathe in our space. The boys have rediscovered toys that have been invisible through the abundance of too much. Admittedly, there are toys that I love too much to let go of, but at least I recognize that they are for me. Getting rid of the toys has been healthy. I'm learning to become less attached to these things. For a long time, they had represented a lifestyle that I had wanted for my family, but I realize now that they were getting in the way of it.

In the book, Simplicity Parenting, author Kim John Payne writes :

By simplifying, you've taken steps to curb the excess that threatens childhood's natural rhythms and growth, By starting at home- embracing experience over things, and "enough" rather than always more- you've made room. You've cleared out space, literally and emotionally. You've made a container for relationship and the slow unfolding of childhood. you've allowed room for your child's own imagination and play.

I found this to be so true in our experience. It was a long and hard process to go through it all, sort it out and rearrange, but we felt rewarded in the evening when the boys (who had spent the entire weekend bickering and fighting) playing happily and cooperatively in their playstands.

"Pretend you're the pirate on the top bunk, I'll be the one on the bottom"
"Pretend this is our home, I'll be the daddy, Luca can be the baby"
...with many giggles ensuing

It was all joyful music to our ears and it felt like we made the steps closer to what we want for our happy home.

Simple Play

Sunday, February 6, 2011

An Adventure at Ano Nuevo

Ano Nuevo State Park

Last week, Matteo, Nico and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather here in California to go visit the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo State Park. From December to March, the Northern elephant seals come to the park for breeding season. It's really an amazing experience to be able to see the seals in their habitat.

We were able to witness a few bull seals fighting for dominance and access to breed with the female seals.
Bull Seals

We did see some seals mating. I have to say that I was a bit relieved that the boys were not at all curious for an explanation of what was happening (at least this year).
Seals Mating

By late December, many of the females have given birth to the pups that had been conceived the previous year. It was very sweet to see them nursing their young.

At some points during the almost 4 mile guided hike, I think the boys were just happy to sit and play in the sand
Boys play

On the way back to the nature center, there was an outpost where we could learn more about the elephant seals
Naturalist at Ano Nuevo

and their population
Seal Census

It was an incredibly fun and educational trip for all of us. Now that the boys are older, they seem to get so much out of learning about the world through being able to see and experience it. I really do feel so fortunate to be in a place where these experiences are readily available.
My Boys

Wishing you all many glorious adventures!