On reading Time, Space and Stillness a very good (and supportive) friend of mine remarked "I just don't know how you're going to get the stillness bit!", so I thought it might be nice to write a little bit about what stillness means in our family life.
Certainly there is not a great deal of sitting still in our home, although any opportunities for this are quickly taken! Stillness for me personally is about feeling calm and peaceful rather than anxious and stressed. The stillness is about what's going on inside, regardless of what is happening in the outside world. Adopting this state was a matter of choice for me. I remember very clearly in the weeks after Callum and Charlie were born feeling almost overwhelmed by the demands of a 2 year-old and newborn twins and telling myself:
"These are your children and this time is precious, don't waste any of it feeling stressed".
I remembered all the women who had approached me in the street, looked at my children and told me that this is the "happiest time of your life". I knew they were right and made a vow to make the most of every aspect of parenting, even the ridiculously difficult bits! This will sound over-simplistic to many people but it has really worked for me. Please don't think I am some vision of saintly calm though, I get frustrated, cross, stressed and irritated plenty of times along the way! I've learned that this doesn't help at all though, and that if I can feel calm then the whole house calms with me! Finding my own stillness makes life easier to manage.
As far as the children go, stillness comes in moments. We get outside and watch nature at work as much as we can, and very often the boys will just stop and be still as something fascinates them. Even young babies love to watch things like sunlight through leaves in the trees. I would always try and stop and be still with my boys when I noticed them doing this...I feel as though I've rediscovered the world through their eyes. I point out the things I find beautiful in the world and Joseph now does this back for me, often when I most need reminding!
Silence can work wonders! It's a great source of amusement in this house that Oliver enjoys filling our home with noise, switching everything on and constantly singing, while I love silence! Obviously there is always the noise of three small boys at home, but this is a lovely noise most of the time! I often use silence to diffuse difficult situations, for example if the boys are starting to argue or get ratty I'll just say "Shhh boys listen!" and they all stop in their tracks and listen. The crazy thing is, they always find something to listen to! This silence breaks the momentum of the moment and often prevents situations from escalating, not always but a lot of the time.
We try to encourage a home where anger and frustration pass quickly and we don't dwell on one another's outbursts. I'll often tell the boys to gather up their anger or frustration when they are in the middle of a paddy and throw it out of the window! They usually find this idea so amusing that the paddy is over, again not always but often. This isn't to negate their feelings, it's simply to accept that young children often have impulsive outbursts that they usually don't understand or remember the root of themselves, so dwelling on these outbursts usually seems pointless to us. Because leading by example is important here, Oliver and I need to allow our own anger and frustration to pass too...forgiving the children their outbursts is often a great deal easier than forgiving each other, but we're a work in progress!
So there you have it, stillness here is not about sitting still or living in a perfectly tranquil home, it's about a feeling of calm that maintains itself even when utter chaos is breaking out in your living room, taking time to notice the beauty all around us, and encouraging one another to pass through anger and frustration peacefully. We live in a lively, bustling home so this isn't always easy, but when we manage it life is great!