The Secret To The Witching Hour
Over at the neighborhood park the wind gently teased our cheeks, and blew leaves on the ground near my feet as I pushed both children on the swings. The swings have become a new favorite past-time ever since 5 year old Sister learned how to swing on her own, and her little brother asks to be right next to her.
Sister leaned her head back and kicked both legs up as far as they could stretch, "I want to go faster mama! Faster and faster!"
Brother giggled and mimicked his sister, craning his neck back, gazing at the clouds.
"If you close your eyes, it makes it go even faster," offered another child swinging nearby. Sister laughed and jumped off the swing. She ran toward the slides, never closing her eyes.
We returned home. Both children running into the house with glee. Me carrying in sandy park bags, a stroller and a feeling of desperation knowing that we were still hours away from bedtime, and my energy drifted away with the leaves at the park.
This hour before dinner can be tricky territory for us (they don't call it the "witching hour" for nothing right ya'll?).
The Witching Hour Secret
I do have a trick up my sleeve in times like this that softens the blow of the witching hour, and I find it creates an atmosphere where children are relaxed and content, rather than upset and clinging. It’s not fancy or gadgety. It’s is a simple and it’s guided by Magda Gerber's Educaring® Approach, or RIE®.
The secret is: I sit quietly and simply watch my children direct their own play, for about 15 minutes. I find that it creates a calming and soothing atmosphere, which helps me to then transition to making dinner. Instead of entertaining them, I put away my cell phone and sit nearby in my “spot” and sensitively observe them as they play in for large portions of the day, both inside and outside. I am emotionally and physically available. But most often, I don't interfere unless there is a safety problem, a limit needs to be set, or there's a very emotional situation.
Sometimes I set up an invitation to play, and sometimes I don't and just hang out in their space. Sensitively observing means enjoying children in the moment, and gently acknowledging what they are doing and/or how they might be feeling when it feels right. I share how I do this on my Instagram stories if you’d like to be friends.
The Benefits Of observing play
By sitting front row as an audience member of our children’s playtime (and not as the director), and simply being present, children both discover who they really are, and we can accept them for who they really are. There is no need for performances, gimmicks, or figuring out a game we’ve invented for them. They choose their own play and struggles, and that is enough. Children can play independently for long periods of time, problem solve as best they can, and demonstrate exceptional self-confidence as they navigate their world. For parents, these times of sensitive observation feels relaxed and special.
After this quality time observing them, it softens the blow of the witching hour, and many times they are able to continue playing independently while I am making dinner or need to throw a load of laundry in. If I sense one or both children are about to lose it, I'll sit with them longer (and tell them when I need to go into kitchen to make dinner), and acknowledge that they are hungry and tired (and that I am too).
We have a phrase in our house. We just "be." We just exist together. Quietly, silently and not interfering. As soon as, like you described, I see the tick that's just about to trigger the "all hell broke loose" situation, which is usually my son pacing, I put everything down and just exist in his space. It's the one piece of parenting advice I wish I could get through to other parents in my life. I've really come to love the witching hour around here, to be honest. It's such a refuel for us both.
Kayla is a reader, and I’m so touched by her description, aren’t you?
Raising kids has gone by so much faster than I ever expected. When my eyes are wide open, it slows down time a little. And I feel lucky for that!
Mamas, I'd love to know, do you sensitively observe your children, or would you like to try? Also, what is your secret for getting through "the witching hour?"
With love and respect,