I’m in a panic.
When I think about the amount of time I get to spend with the girls nowadays, I feel bad (guilty maybe?) that it’s a lot less than the time I spent with them while we lived in Chapel Hill. Of course, the circumstances are very different. Here I run two business. Here they have more activities. And of course they’re also growing up and are starting to need less of me. But it still doesn’t sit well with me, this feeling of missing out at such a young age. I miss my kids, and I feel like I’m always trying to cram quality time with as much quality as possible.
Like in the car. Goodness, we spend SO. MUCH. TIME. in the car. Manila is just traffic everywhere, and to get the girls from one point to the next takes at least 15 minutes each way… if we’re lucky. Multiply that by the number of places we need to get to in a day — from one school to the next school (and back), Kindermusik class (and back), playdates or errands (and back…), a good time of our day is spent stuck in traffic. Our car seats are put to good use.
And so because I’m in such a panic about the little time we have, I load our car rides with questions and activities. I’m constantly chatting them up. I jump at the chance to teach them something new, or check to see if they remember what I’ve taught them in the past. I pass snacks and water bottles and milk back and forth. All of this while driving, mind you.
One morning on our way to Jamie’s school, I noticed she was in a chatty mood on our way down to the car and so of course, the multitasking mom in me decided to maximize the opportunity in the car. I started using people and cars that we’d pass as a springboard for our “lesson” – which I’d decided would be the colors in Spanish.
I was going on and on about rojo and morado and azul when I noticed that Jamie fell silent. From her happy chatter on our way to the car, there was suddenly no response. When I peeked back at her, she saw me and quickly shut her eyes. I was taken aback. Was she avoiding me by pretending to sleep?! And better yet — did she know how to do that at two and a half years old?!
At that point I stopped the “interrogation” and fell silent the rest of our drive to school. I checked back at Jamie through the rear view mirror and saw her eyes were open again.
At school I parked and took Jamie out of the car. I couldn’t let it go, and so before I said goodbye I carried her and asked her what had happened it the car. “Did you not want to talk to mom Jamie?”
To my surprise she nodded and said, “Yes. I just want mom to be quiet mama.”
I used the car ride away from school (and towards my meeting) to reflect on that morning’s affairs. And the one person that came to mind was our Chapel Hill Kindermusik teacher Rebecca.
When the girls were babies, we attended her Kindermusik Village classes. At one point in each session, she would have the parents sit back by the wall, stay quiet and just let the babies do their thing. The reason for this was to first, model relaxation for the children. They need to “see” what calm looks like. The second was to just give them the space to “be”, and discover things on their own. She said that many times she’s seen babies progress through their developmental milestones (like turning over for the first time, or standing and taking their first steps). I remember her saying that sometimes, it’s in the quiet when the “magic” happens.
I’d obviously forgotten that. In all my panic to maximize every single moment with my girls, I’d forgotten to just “be”. There’s so much “noise” going on in their day, maybe sometimes just sitting quietly and letting them process whatever is in their active brains is enough. They need time, space and a safe place to do that. Maybe sometimes, the best time for it is in the car rides in between activities, when it’s just us.
Since then I’ve been more conscious about allowing the girls to lead car conversations — if they choose. I’ll ask a few questions, but leave room for quiet. I have noticed that they do like the silence. And when they do say something, it often amuses me and surprises me. Sometimes it’s about a question or an observation on something that happened months ago. It had already escaped my consciousness, but apparently, it was still fresh in theirs. Other times Sam will ask a challenging question, and it makes me think: my goodness she knows so much more than I thought she did.
It’s true. There is magic in the silence. And there’s so much I learn about the girls through it too. I just have to breathe the panic away… so I can let the magic take its course.