On March 4, 2011 we announced to the r(E)volution community that we were expecting our first child. At that point Crystal was about 10 weeks along. We talked about it here and discussed further how it was already impacting our decision to build and live in a tiny house. We were surprised that so many people had words of warning for us regarding space and childrens needs, etc. With 56 comments on that one post alone the information and opinions were overwhelming.
Once Tilly Madison was born though our eyes were truly opened to so many things. She was our first and is our only child. Beforehand we didn’t realize that it was possible to be alert and joyful with only 3-4 hours of disjointed sleep a night. We didn’t realize that human poo would become a major part of our life (and only to become more so when we decided on a compost toilet rather than a plumbed throne!) We had no idea that children are afraid of sleep and will do anything to fight it. But on the same hand we didn’t realize that our daughter would teach us the value of scheduling and routine as well as the ability to be mildly (but productively) sidetracked. All have become valuable lessons to us regarding living simply. In just two years (as this month is the month of her birth), Tilly Madison has taught us:
Variety is the spice of overwhelmedness. This is especially true at the supper table and during play time. If we offer TM a plate full of color and texture and variety she typically gets disinterested faster. She is more apt to play with her food rather than commit to eating any of it. It ends up on the floor, in her hair, on her tummy, and basically everywhere but in her belly. It is too much! If we only serve a small portion of meat (or pasta) with one vegetable and of the variety that lends itself to eating with ones hands, she is more apt to eat more and without as much drama. Same with toys. TM has 3 large toys, about a dozen books, and two babies. That is it. This allows her to focus on her favorite and really dig in to the creativity that can come from them. Too many toys though and she just gives up and resorts to drama.
Rest is essential. By this I am not talking about sleep necessarily. I am talking about rest. The next time you see an overly tired child throw a tantrum remind yourself of this: the only thing stopping an overly tired adult from crying and stomping their feet is ego and (presumably) maturity. We need rest (this includes sleep). So why would we think toddlers are any different? Without rest exhaustion can show through in everything. As adults when we are tired we tend to eat more, become more easily agitated, lash out more, and consume more. This is eerily similar with TM. She is so much happier, more energetic, more attentive, and more creative, when she has a good nights sleep, solid rest during the day (she is currently taking 2 naps averaging 1.5 hours each). I have taken this observation to heart and have found myself really trying to get a good 6-7 hours of sound, undisturbed, sleep (when possible, of course).
This raises a good point now. Over-scheduling is the enemy of simple living. Our whole family is happier when we have a bit of a routine but not a break-neck schedule. We especially observe this on weekends and holidays. Too many play dates, parties, field trips, visits, etc, and one of us is going to have a meltdown and it is not going to be pretty.
Experiences above all. Face it. Newness wears off. No matter what we give TM when it is new it is fun for about 15-20 minutes. Then it is old. It is just one of the __________. Don’t get me wrong. She is appreciative and she will continue to play with it. But at that point it is just another in her personal collection. It has lost that “new car smell.” But what I have noticed is that no matter how many times she sees Pooh get his head stuck in a honey pot in one of her books she is tickled. She loves it. She doesn’t need a stuffed Pooh or her own honey pot. She loves reliving that experience of seeing him get stuck. When we go out to the chicken house to get eggs she still treats every egg as if it is the first she has seen. That experience of opening the door, seeing the egg, and picking up the egg, is an experience that happens once (albeit once a day!).
They say our earliest memories are moments that made us feel afraid. And as we get older other emotions become involved. I can remember so many of my lifes experiences. I remember the first time I held a girls hand; the softness and the sweaty palms. I can remember my dad yanking my ear lobe when he surprised me on a college visit and saw that I had pierced my ear. I can even remember how I felt when I was hired for my first job (a bait boy on a fishing boat). I can’t however remember hardly anything about the first car I bought or the first CD I owned. If I do remember details about a video game I purchased or my first DVD purchase, it is because there is a story – an experience – attached to it. It is something that evokes emotion and reminds me that experiences are the things life are made of.
What have your children taught you about the simple life?