Today marks the 9th anniversary of my very first due date. My firstborn was due January 16th, and this being my first pregnancy, I assumed he’d be coming on or around that day – (Duh – it’s called a “due date!). I was planning on being a stay-at-home-mom and had already finished my last day of working outside of the home. My hospital bag was packed. The house was clean. My husband and I celebrated “one last night out” without a kid. The car seat was installed (it was so clean!), the crib assembled, stuffed animals lined up, nursing pillow positioned in the glider…everything was ALL SET.
As I’m sure you guessed by now, that baby didn’t come on the 16th. Or the 17th. Or the 18th. Or the 20th. Or the 23rd.
(Envision me twiddling my thumbs on that glider…in silence).
The silence of those days was piercing. I was alone in my house, waiting and wondering when I would become a mother. There was nothing to do but wait. Although I wasn’t sure when it would happen, there was a firm sense of certainty that I knew what was coming – a baby WOULD be coming. I dug my heels into that certainty and felt rooted in that secure truth, as if I was frozen in a “ready” position.
On the evening of the 24th I went into the hospital for some medical intervention to get things started and by the wee hours of the morning on January 26th, I was FINALLY holding my healthy baby boy.
And from that moment on, life got very, very noisy, active, chaotic and FAST – and then we added two more children into the mix. The firm footing I had secured prior to motherhood became a swampy puddle you just can’t dig your heels into it. And that silence? I am certain I’ll never experience anything like it again.
This week in the studio during our music classes, we did an exercise that encouraged self-control and stillness. It would be VERY difficult to ask a roomful of toddlers and preschoolers to be still and silent during what they know to be their high-energy, boisterous music class. And yet, through vocal inflection, large-muscle engagement and a simple “TING” of finger cymbals, Every. Single. Toddler stood perfectly still, without being told what to do. There was a shift in the energy of the room that came at the end of each phrase, and they anticipated it (children are very smart) and they looked forward to it (children like a challenge).
I absolutely LOVE exercises like this not only because the kids look so stinking cute when they “freeze!” (with their crazy arms all stiff in the air, eyes darting inside a still face) but because it’s so satisfying to watch a roomful of young children succeed in something so challenging.
During those silent moments in the studio, time seems to stand still – the air is heavy with anticipation but tempered with the desire to WAIT for Ms. Kristen. They feel that different atmosphere and they observe my face, my body gestures, my posture and they wait for me to spring into action. It is in the silence between phrases that the children learn about self-control, fierce attentiveness, and the joy of success. They wait so they can see what to do next. Silence provides them the opportunity to do this.
Do we, grown-ups, do that enough? Are we tuned into our environment enough to know when we have the opportunity to pause in silence and wait?
As parents, we have to be nimble, respond often, and keep things moving forward. I think life hands us more opportunities to pause than we may realize, but because we are so busy, so overwhelmed, perhaps, by everything we’re taking in, we forget the importance of a good, dramatic pause. If we could just grab that opportunity to freeze and be silent – a few blessed moments during which we can observe what the environment surrounding us reveals, imagine what might happen. A moment to process, think, learn and grow.
In music, this is called a “rest.” And rests are often the most dramatic, memorable or catchy part of a song. Even though I’m a music teacher and outwardly all about making LOTS of NOISE in the studio, I must say that silence is often the soundtrack to some of our greatest breakthroughs. The silence that buffers action affords our most substantial growth.
Nine years ago, life give me a gift of 10 long, silent days during which I had nothing to do but wait. In every day life, we probably won’t get 10 days to FREEZE and process what life is throwing at us – but how often does life hand us 10 seconds?
Will you take those 10 seconds?
Will you imagine Ms. Kristen behind you with the finger cymbals: