The Power of Silence

Tom is now fifteen months and is gradually beginning to say actual words, in amongst the sea of babbling. So far we have ‘goggy’ (doggy), ‘herro’ (hello) and ‘b-b’ (bye-bye). In addition to mama and dada of course. He used to say ducky too but seems to have stopped. Maybe duckies aren’t interesting now he has discovered trains.

It’s wonderful to think that, in the not-so-distant future, he will actually be able to have a conversation with us. Even just being able to tell us what he wants would be useful, instead of the random point-and-guess game we play a lot at the moment.

Having said that, it has been oddly restful spending time with someone who can’t yet talk. While I do the dutiful thing and chat to him a lot, there have been plenty of quiet moments where I haven’t felt the need to fill the silence with words. And Tom can make himself pretty well understood with gestures and expressions most of the time.

It also has helped me to cut down on using a phrase I hated hearing when I was a child; ‘What’s wrong?’ Obviously there is no point in asking, as he can’t tell me anyway. Instead, I have been learning to listen and watch before jumping in with words and questions. Once I think I know what the issue is, I might quietly say something like ‘you seem to be frustrated because you can’t get the blocks to stack’ (or whatever is appropriate to the situation). But sometimes it feels more natural to stay quiet and offer physical comfort or silent support, depending on what he seems to want from me.

We had a lovely moment in the park the other day. It had been a busy weekend and I think Tom was a bit overwhelmed by the parade of relatives he barely knows. So when we went out on Monday, he didn’t toddle off to play as he normally does. Instead, he asked to sit on my lap. We shared a long, quiet cuddle, both of us gazing out at the nature that surrounded us. Because we were outside, I wasn’t distracted by the chores or screens that call my attention away at home. I could just sit and give him my full focus. It was a wonderful moment of quiet connection. After about five minutes, he asked to get down and trotted off to investigate the green gym equipment, perfectly restored.wpid-imag1586.jpg

I just hope that when Tom is talking properly, I can still remember to watch, listen and stay quiet when he needs me too, instead of jumping in immediately with questions.


Taking the Pledge

About a month ago, I signed up to the Wild Network. I pledged to spend one hour a day outside, reconnecting with the great outdoors and introducing my newly minted one-year-old to the joy that is time spent exploring nature. “One hour”, I thought, “that won’t be hard.”

And for the first few weeks, it wasn’t hard. But in my enthusiasm, I had neglected to notice a couple of things. First, I signed this pledge in August, when the sun was (sort of) shining. Then September hit, the heavens opened, and suddenly a day on the Marshes was looking less attractive.

Second, my son has just turned one. He can’t walk. His contribution to arts and crafts sessions at nursery is to scrumple everything up and throw it on the floor. And then try to eat it. So many of the brilliant suggestions and events on the Wild Network’s website just don’t really work for us.

Third, my usual laid back, part-time working, plenty-of-time-to-potter routine has just been rudely interrupted by performance of a major civic duty (jury service) smack bang in the busiest time of my working calendar. So I feel like I’ve been working two jobs, plus trying to keep the laundry pile to an acceptable level, plus the thousand and one other things parents do every day, and making time to sit idle in the park or go on long meandering walks has slipped a little too far down the priorities list. Somewhere after sleep. And buy groceries. And wash some nappies so we don’t have poo all over the floor. Again.

Fourth…oh who knows? Venus was in retrograde. I need a haircut. Or perhaps, these are all just excuses and what I really need is a kick up the arse.

So here it is. A digital kick up the arse. I hope that, by committing to the internet at large to get outside at least once a day with the baby, no matter the weather, state of the house, or level of panic over work commitments, I will be more inspired to keep my pledge and prioritise the important work of raising a child who is connected with the natural world. Even if he was able to use an Oyster card before he could crawl.

And I hope you’ll join me. Whether you are already a nature-loving, walks-in-the-rain family of foragers or just taking a first step to get your kids outdoors, away from screens and running (or speed-crawling) free. Join the Wild Network and pledge to make time for wild time.