Sunday, May 15, 2011

Zone Time Battles in the Home

My son is a lot of fun, and I love to play with him, but it seems like a constant battle some days to get him to play a little by himself. I love to see him zoned out and tuned into his own little world of imagination and/or discovery. I happen to think it is so important, but is it? And is it worth the battle, which seems to just put him in the opposite direction mentally?

Lets first take a look at Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori method of child education.  The Montessori method encourages children to do the activity alone, and seems to push the children into their own personal "zone" where they are deeply and actively engaged and on the cusp of their learning curve.

My superhero hippie loves 'zone-time' with friends
To me, this means, the children are, thus, connected to their deeper Self, and not so caught up in their "ego", or "drama mind", throughout the day.

Maria Montessori, by the way, is an awesome female role-model. She was the first female to graduate in medicine from the University of Rome back just before the 20th century. She also studied educational philosophy, psychology and anthropology.

While Director at a "Children's House" with 3 - 5 year-olds, Maria found that children who were freely participating in the activities "began to evidence a kind of inner calmness, and they were able to concentrate contentedly for very long periods of time. Not only did they quickly absorb complex skills and sophisticated knowledge, they also developed a self-discipline which relieved any need for external authority. In their dealings with adults and other children, they began to show great thoughtfulness, compassion and understanding. It was if their work at the Children's House lifted some great weight off their minds, freeing them to focus on their own inner thoughts and purpose"(Basic Montessori by David Gettman). Her methods grew from there.

It sounds ideal to me as to what I am striving towards for my own children. However, it has me thinking about my son lately who has been, I admit, driving me nuts because I can't seem to get him to become deeply engaged with anything alone, beside watching television. Lately, he wants me to constantly entertain him, or help me with whatever I am doing. I know he has it in him, which is why it is bothering me.

Captain Underpants
I would love have my son deeply entranced in his playing zone throughout the day. I would love to see him at the edge of his learning curve, being creative, being connected to his spirit. Lately, some days he does when he plays with his mini cars for a good 15 minutes, or when he runs around the house fighting imaginary bad guys in his superhero costumes. Just yesterday, he went into his room for five minutes and came out dressed as a superhero strung out with up-teen pairs of superhero underwear. Yeah, that was a good five minutes. But to me, it seems that his "zone" times usually involves someone else.

I do my best to create a fun, engaging day, where I am constantly teaching him things, and seeing his spirit shine forth. For the most part, I love it! But the day can get very long. I grow tired. I can see if my son is bored with all the stuff we have, then of course he would come to me to entertain him since I always know how to push him developmentally and in a fun way.

I wonder if I am expecting too much from him, or perhaps I am enabling this behavior in some way?

I don't know the answer, but I do think my irritation with him has little to do with him, and mostly to do with me.

I am the one who is irritated by his behaviour. What really is bothering me?

Well, it's the fact that I feel like I am not doing my job as a parent because "my ideals" say that a happy spirited kid should be playing absorbed "their zone" by themself. Wow, it seems silly to own up to that, but it's true. I can see the falsity of that now.

The other thing that's irritating about his behavior is it doesn't give me any personal space to get into my own zones. By nature, and since I was a child, I derive the most pleasure and feel the most connected experiencing the world alone. I LOVE being alone (within balance anyways).  I remember being four or five and telling my mom to send the neighbour kid away because I didn't want to play with them. I just didn't feel like myself around other kids. I liked playing by myself so I could be myself.

At home with my kids, some days I feel like it is a constant battle, strategies and excuses included, of ways I can co-habitate with my son but yet escape his clutches. The newest thing is calling the grandmas who always indulge him in his endless silly conversations. (Thank God for grandparents. It is a welcome relief to get 5 or more minutes to focus on my baby one-pointedly while I know my son is in his full glory).

My son is sharp though. As soon as he is on to me and my plans to shift his energy away from me for a little thought break, or heaven forbid, senses my irritation with him not leaving me alone, he amps up his game, and it can get very sticky.

If I look at my goal as a parent as a whole, it would be to encourage him to connect to his spirit as much as possible throughout the day. In that context, then, I suppose we are succeeding. 

All day long, when we interact or when he interacts with others, his true spirit definitely shines forth (for the most part). And it is completely awe inspiring. And totally different than myself as a child. He has been like this from day one. He was always the happiest when I shone attention his way, barely able to derive pleasure as a baby by himself for more than five minutes. My six month old daughter, on the other hand, demands to be left alone at times during the day. She will cry or fuss while with me until I put her down and then she looks so happy and relieved. She has a lot of zone moments sitting on the floor by herself playing away. Two different spirits needing different things, but both equally acceptable.

Dr. Shefali Tsabary, who wrote the book The Conscious Parent (which I highly recommend), says that the spiritual purpose behind our becoming parents is to grow and transform. Our children came to us to learn how to become whole. The interaction with each other makes us both aware of all that we yet have to learn together.

I take this to mean, I need to learn how to create more zone moments for myself with others.  I am not going to drop my solo zone time because it is essential for me, but  this is where I need to grow. My son, on the other hand, has to learn how to find more ways to find his zone solo. He came to me for a reason. We need to learn from each other.

Of course I will keep encouraging my son to stay connected with his spirit while with others. As he gets older, it will be harder with society distractions and pressures to keep that connection with himself. It is my job to help him remember his true self, and help him learn ways he can do this.

So, working through this. Now that I have dropped my attachment to my belief that solo zone moments are the ideal:
  1. I need to drop my ideal that SOLO zone time is best, and best for everyone. 
  2. I need to find even more ways for me to get in my zone with my son, so I don't feel so depleted.
  3. I need to take time out to get good zone time in when my son is not around. And for me that means feeding my own spirit in an engaged activity ALONE. 
  4. I need to research and implement some new Montessori activities, or other ones, to help engage my son and hope that helps encourage more solo zone moments for him.
  5. I need to try to feel more love and connection when I start being irritated with my son for always wanting me around. I mean, he isn't going to want me around forever! And I think understanding the roots of this problem will help.
Ahhh, this helped, thanks Blog!

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