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things we’ve handed down: solitude


Maybe it’s just her personality.  Or my idle parenting philosophy.  Or both.  Whatever the reason, my E. loves her alone-ness just as much as she likes to spend time with me.  When she was just a tot and J. was deployed, I’d bring her to my room when she woke up and shut the door and let her play while I rested for a while longer.  She’d scribble on some paper.  Talk to herself.  Read her books.  Sing.  Scribble some more.  She’s always been able to entertain herself.  And now that she’s a little older, that translates into lots of story-telling–between her Barbies, between two sticks, between her feet–whatever props are available–but always for the benefit of no one but herself.  She loves it if you tune in, but she’s just as happy to be alone in her own world.  There was a time when I worried about that a little. Am I paying enough attention to her?  Does she feel loved?  Should I be doing more with her?  Basically, Am I screwing up my child? 

I still worry about that a little, but for the most part I’ve come to appreciate it.  After all, I was very similar growing up.  I always had my nose in a book, or in a craft, or some other project, be it alphabetizing my books or rearranging my room or planning assignments – yes, assignments – for my little sister.

I think its a healthy skill to be able to be alone in our own company sometimes.  To tune out the clutter and noise and busy-ness, retreat to ourselves, and just be – creative, at peace, in prayer, or contemplation – whatever we need.  Solitude can take on so many forms.  I think of sewing, rock climbing, thrifting, jogging, blogging, or in my daughter’s case: a moment on the porch with a Cinderella figurine.

I hope she’ll always be this happy by herself.  She’ll need to be.  Right now I govern most moments of her day with routines and guidance and Hello Kitty bandaids and kisses.  But there will come a time when I can’t quiet the noise for her–that rattling of things and people and tasks, expectations and even heartbreak. When I can’t do it for her, I hope she can do it for herself.  With a little time by herself.

Links of Interest:  The Benefits of Alonetime from Psychology Today, Yours, Mine, and the Hours: an article for Single Parents, Solitude and Silence as Spiritual Disciplines

Leaner - I was like that as a child, too. I could spend hours alone lost in a book, a drawing, thought. My oldest does it too, sometimes. Other times she craves, wants, NEEDS my attention.
I think being able to be alone is a skill that many do not have. Also, allowing children to play on their own is sometimes our sanity. I don’t work well with strict schedules. I don’t want my children to feel that they need to either.

Shanna - Jerrett has always kept to himself. Everyone comments how well he “keeps himself occupied”…whether it’s little games/stories he makes up, reading or drawing he wants nothing to do with his momma! I remember when he was almost 2 and he told me “you can go away now momma, I play”. Sheesh! Break a mother’s heart, why don’t ya! We have our time but he spends most of the day doing his thing; sometimes it’s been quiet for a while and I find him in his tent just reading or talking to himself. I’m greatful because it means I can’t get things done.

The NON-Superwoman - Your sweet little girl reminds me of my four-year-old. He’s rather entertain himself and was even like that as a baby. I can appreciate that since I was/am the same way Baby #2 on the other hand wants you to constantly be in his face! Maybe when he’s older he’ll learn to love solitude as well.

joy - i think it’s wonderful. Lucy is like this too, at 18mos, 20 min of climbing inside a kitchen cupboard and getting out again. I hope she is like your daughter when she is older. It is so important to have alone time. It reminds me that i need mine too to focus and reconnect with God. Thanks for the great post.

charlotte lyons - o, what a lovely post, Crystal. It is an essential skill in life to be able to be alone- happily. You are so right. There are challenges ahead where her own company and creativity will rescue her from a great deal and provide comfort for any number of reasons. It is one of your best gifts to her as a parent- to let her be- and discover the depth of her own self. Happy Mother’s Day- (belatedly!) xoC

SierraMoon - don’t worry Crystal both of your daughters are beautiful, and I have no doubt you’re the best Mom ever. When they grow up with your help and each other they’ll turn to 2 beautiful persons inside out. It’s a good thing though to hear a mother question. But I needed time to myself, alone, as a child and so does my daughter and if she doesn’t get her time out, she’d ask for it. She can get busy by herself or read and she says she never gets bored. My husband is a Psychiatrist and he always says that’s what develop imagination and help the children know themselves and get more maturity.

Em - Hey – my daughter LOVES her alone time too… when she was an infant and even a toddler, she would get fussy if she didn’t have a certain amount of alone time in the day. It was very odd to some of our family, but we understood her. She has always been quite independant, and I think it’s good for her. She’s a very smart, imaginative, verbal girl, so I’m not worried about her.