Holding the Space

So I never really got it. Melisa Nielsen always said let your kids do … and you be there “holding the space”.  I thought I got what she meant. I thought I got it, but I couldn’t do it.  Be there in the same area as them?  Be somewhere where they know you are?  Maybe I didn’t get it, maybe that’s why I couldn’t do it.

Finally, I believe I have figured it out.  It’s really quite simple.  And truthfully this may be something you need to experience to believe, so if you don’t want to experience it right now, no hard feelings.

This is the deal. I’m a writer/blogger, I also am involved in a family business, help a friend with a budding business, homeschool and completely run my household.  So hearing things like “hold the space” don’t translate to me.  I am figuring, if he’s occupied, I can write, catch up on some blog-love (for those of you non-bloggers that’s reaching out to bloggers you like, commenting on their posts, sharing them, etc), do some tax work, help my friend place some orders.  You know, stuff.  But I noticed that when I did those things while my son was occupied, whatever he was doing became louder, more rambunctious, dare I say more irritating?  I noticed the more I worked on my blog during the day, the worse it got, so I decided to try what I thought a Waldorf homeschooling mama might consider “holding the space”.  Since I do not knit, the two things I did were sit on the sofa and read through our curriculum, planning the weeks ahead and needle felt.  See my post on needle felting here.  Let me say, I don’t really believe in magical thinking, but well, this kind-of worked like magic.

My son doesn’t need my un-divided attention.  That’s not it, because he didn’t have it.  What he did need was something that was not sucking all of the energy out of my body.  Something that was beautiful, calm and peaceful.  I was not in front of a computer.  I didn’t even keep my cell phone by me.  I had a cup of tea, a notebook, some colored pencils (I am obsessed with colored pencils, pens and sharpies) or my felting stuff.  And you know what?  He played calmly.  He stayed focused, and when he was done he started to put things away.  Because what I didn’t mention before is if I did any of those aforementioned activities he would play indefinitely and make a complete mess.  This was different.  I was facing him, although not watching him, he knew when he was ready I would be there.

The boy busily doing his own thing.

The boy busily doing his own thing.

Folks it took me 2 years to figure this piece out.  Maybe I am a really slow learner.  Maybe it wasn’t explained just right.  But you gotta try it.  It’s worth it, and you know what? It strengthens your relationship with your child too.  You are seen as available.  Who wouldn’t want that?

So here’s the short list: Your child is involved in a constructive activity, whether it is self directed school-work, legos, painting, etc.  You, instead of busily occupying yourself to get something done in those few minutes your child is occupied, sit calmly, somewhere nearby. In that place you do something that does not engross you. Some knit, some read, I felt or read up on our curriculum.  DO NOT USE A COMPUTER OR IPAD. I know it’s hard to believe but it makes a difference.  Try it, I think you might be amazed at the results, and if you are already doing it, I would love to hear all about it!

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7 responses to “Holding the Space

  1. Hey Jen,
    I had the same experience with not getting the concept of “holding the space.” I don’t like to knit, but that is one way I can/do “hold it”. Your post made me think of the other day when the boys and I were making mail art together. I got to be creative and so did they – in a completely organic, everybody-do-their-own-thing, all in the same room kinda way. We need to do that more. Thanks for the reminder.

    Yes, unfortunately, the computer must send out a homing signal to them. They can be completely occupied upstairs and I will hop on “just for a sec” and BOOM! They are on me like white on rice.

    xo,
    Sheila

  2. So, your blog is up! I kept bugging you to get it ready. And here it is and I didn’t know it. I guess not-stalking-effectively runs in the family (:

    Not being familiar with the “holding the space” idea (beyond Sheila once writing something about “holding the space” –but not an explanation of it), I’m so glad that you shared it.

    It sounds like one of those many ideas that I’ve never considered, but once it’s revealed to me, it’s a “Why didn’t I already know that?” kinda thing. Thank you for so carefully and clearly sharing it.

    • Your welcome R&R jr, it’s the least I could do. If it wasn’t for you I would be swimming in a sea of indecision :-)

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