At a time like this, when we have all been forced to become introspective in a painfully public way, parents are re-evaluating their roles, their spousal relationships and their past and future relevance, while children are lost in their own homes. It happened to all of us, it was more pervasive than the fear of the virus.
It’s like that smell you can never quite find, where you have to unpack the whole house and reintegrate the elements in tiny portions so as not to miss the source. It simply must be identified because you cannot ignore it. The only thing for it is to stop, find it and figure it out. We need space and time to do that, but we seem to be busier than ever before, locked away behind our walled gardens and rooms.
How and where to start such a process?
In IT-speak, regularly running the Disk Defragmenter utility improves system performance. When the computer (your mind) saves files (hears and sees new things) it fragments the files into pieces and saves the pieces in various locations on the hard drive (neural pathways) … As a result, with ample time to consolidate and organize and contemplate what they have learned, children’s minds (and ours) are able to accesses memory files faster, and new files are less likely to be fragmented (confused or misunderstood)
Sleeping, and being bored are times when we shut off from our senses or focus on only one or two of them at most, leaving the brain to close its door and enjoy a bit of quiet “me time” without any intruding ideas. Certain sports could also do this, or yoga or swimming or anything else really, that helps you ‘switch off’ from deep thinking and activities that demand your attention instead of helping you relax.
Some argue that sleep has a restorative function, while other theories postulate that the circadian rhythm is just an evolutionally tool to keep us inactive in order to save energy at that time of day where it is more dangerous or pointless to be awake (My hypothalamus clearly didn’t get that memo) I imagine it’s probably somewhere in-between the two, together with a healthy dose of spiritual reconnection with the earth’s magnetic waves (or something akin to that)
My real interest in this topic started in 2008 when I first heard the late Leendert Von Oostrum speak about how good it is for children to be “bored”. It immediately resonated with what I had already learned as a child myself, and my personal experiences of mental fatigue and exhaustion as a teen when I had Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, and then again as a young mom surviving a broken marriage with 2 children under the age of 2. I must say, that one of the few things that kept my mind from breaking point during those times was music. I listened to more Radiohead and Pink Floyd than ever, and discovered Trans music in the early 2000s (remember Sandstorm by the Finnish guy Darude? – I think that cool piece of music changed my life ) and whoever KNEW I would even like Rapp and fall in love with Deep House!? Why this oddly anarchical kind of music for a rather serious goody-two-shoes like me? (home birthing hippie-type-mom who homeschools in-between brewing batches of kombucha)
Well, I think the answer lies in cognitive defragmentation.
I think my mind (like many children today) is a tad hyperactive, and stress and an overload of input just adds to the chaos. Such music is repetitive and slightly hypnotic, and for lack of a better explanation, probably forces the brain to seek shelter from the seeming mess of noise and retreat into itself using the structural nature of music to guide it to where it can make sense of the things that make sense – like the book I read about mental illnesses or the conversation I had with the car mechanic about what a sump plug is for and how an alternator works or why it’s a bad thing to push your car to the next exit when it’s overheating.
None of this stuff is life-changing or important, but the brain holds onto it, as if its very survival depends on it – probably as a means of distraction from anxiety and worry over the real matters in life like when you have just drawn your last R200 and you and your kiddies have to get to the end of the month that is 2 weeks away. The stress is mind-numbingly immense, but you have to find a way to keep smiling and having a good time to prevent spilling it over onto the little bundles of joy that make life worth living.
I would imagine this must be what it is like for children who work with a currency of acceptance and validation instead of our petrol and food money and our children’s safety. This must be hard for them when they leave the loves of their life (mom and dad) each day, who represent all their internal dialogue and emotional expressions to spend time with other children going through the same. Stress like this must be what children go through when they feel separation anxiety.
Now, not all children go through this, because this is mainly age-dependent; and their adaptation relies heavily on the relationship between mother and father.
Where strife and insecurity exist, a child can never learn to completely detach and move away into their own space to explore, they need to start from a solid base otherwise they often don’t ever start off at all – this is, of course, metaphorical and psychological in nature and not practicable and can be fixed if one makes a conscious effort at change and reparation. (which is why I would normally say a divorce is never an option – but sadly sometimes it has to be for the very same reason)
You may ask, what on earth does divorce and chaotic minds and missing sump plugs have to do with a lack of sleep and mental consolidation of school work and children getting bored over COVID lockdown?
Well, I think EVERYTHING!
I believe that it is because of our modern disconnect from our basic and true-life experiences that we are drifting further and further away from our innate capacity for genius.
Your child is actually a genius.
That little person is EVERYTHING because of something called potential. If we can find a way to grow kids in an environment that truly nurtures their sense of SELF within parameters of reasonable discipline and with parents setting an example of mutual respect and consideration year in and year out, they will feel freer to explore their own interests from the safety of “home”. This can only really happen if they manage to find TIME to drift off into cognitive rest and relaxation so that they can consolidate all those little seemingly unimportant things that stick in the brain waiting to make sense.
Is this really possible in our fast-paced lives?
As a consequence of a mismatch between our complex minds and the continued bombardment of information, our cyclical body clocks and the external timing modern life imposes on us, we all suffer some degree of “life lag”, and at some point, it starts catching upon us. I am an adherent to natural cycles being at play all the time regardless of how we artificially control them – or try to at least. This constant strife of time we engage with must play some part in how we consolidate the ideas and experiences we have each day.
I have been doing some reading up on and researching sleep ever since I discovered Arianna Huffington (I am a hooked follower) and this led me to learn more and more about screen time and addiction to our technologies. I was not prepared for what I have been discovering.
Our children (and us) need time to be bored in order to make sense of all the mental filing that is in disarray. I think it is easier for an adult mind to conceptualize this, so our focus should be on providing such space and time for our children first, and then when you see they can be comfortable alone, with their own company without getting frustrated and angry and demanding, then we need to start working on ourselves, as parents and spouses.
Just make a start by switching off the TV and putting phones on aeroplane mode. Don’t allow distractions, play soft music and make a comfy spot for reading or doing a puzzle or playing with the sand in a zen garden – get your child interested by doing it yourself – don’t give it to them as a chore or an activity – just be there and do it yourself and plan it so that not much else is available to them other than watching you and participating if they want to. Keep a diary of it and note down the progression of this time each day, how it makes you feel. Does it cause you to reconnect with your peace? Does your child seem calmer? Do you start thinking about things you thought you had forgotten? Does your child use the word “why” more now? Do you feel anxious or relaxed in such a space, and what would you like to do about that? After a few days of such moments, you may start to see a pattern develop about how your thinking, memory and reaction time is changing. (get to bed earlier than normal as well if you can and severely limit screen time from sunset each day in order to improve sleep quality)
My reading journey of late has led me to conclude what my practical mind, my mom and any reasonable person would tell me… we spend too much time online and not enough time with ourselves. I am not going to bother getting into making time for each other since we know already that this is dwindling, but rather, time with self.
When last have you spent time with YOU – the person who got you here, who prepared you to cope with all you are coping with now? I think its high time we all unpacked our own mental suitcases and settled into that space we should know well –the me inside of me.