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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Mom. I’m feeling mad. I’m going to felt.

Yes, you heard it right. He was feeling mad. That’s been happening a little bit more lately as we’ve been cooped up inside due to the horrendous midwest weather.

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Last week I taught Isaiah how to felt. I tried a couple of months ago. Back when I was so inspired by the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival that I wanted to move to a sheep farm. At the time, he just wasn’t interested. I thought spinning and felting would be something we could enjoy together, but I wasn’t daunted. Even though he showed no interest, I didn’t let my interest wain. I wanted to felt. Needle felting is cathartic, how could it not be? You get to pound a hunk of wool with a needle. A lot. So of course I completely understood Isaiah’s statement, and was very proud of him for identifying a need and finding a constructive way to deal with it. After a few minutes he went from being mad to wanting to felt a pancake. Yes a pancake. I know, I felt birds, gnomes, princesses and even little play men for Isaiah. I never thought of felting a pancake, but hey, who am I to squelch his creativity?

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More about needle felting. There are a ton of great resources on YouTube, I basically taught myself by searching for needle felting tutorials and watching a few. You need some supplies, and I suggest getting decent ones. I picked mine up from the Sheep and Wool Festival from Mielke’s Fiber Arts. Don’t get them from Michaels, their stuff is cheap AND expensive. I think felting is a great project for kids who are responsible enough not to poke themselves, or can handle poking themselves without tears. Because, let’s face it, even I poke myself 🙂 The needles you use for felting are barbed, so that they push the wool down and then lift it up again as it comes out (which is what it does when you stick it in your finger too). The point is you are tangling the fine fibers together so much that eventually what was soft fluffy wool becomes a dense wool object, it is really quite cool, and very satisfying! Don’t be afraid to try it, I think it’s something even the most craft-impaired person can do.

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