No, I’m not talking about a religious epiphany while listening to the samba.
I’m talking about rhythms in life.
In the Waldorf early childhood world, it’s all about the rhythm. Little kids thrive in a familiar, rhythmical environment. Imagine you are a 3-year-old. Imagine if every day you weren’t sure when you were going to eat, who was going to look after you, or whether you were going to have a nap or not. Pretty unsettling, no?
So we try our darnedest to make each day familiar. Mealtimes, sleep times, general activities are all the same. The kids feel safe, and their energies can be spent doing more important things like playing, learning, and growing. Another important rhythm is inside play/outside play, which kindergarten teachers liken to an in- and outbreath. You know how a bunch of kids in a room will start to bounce off the walls and into each other after a while? Time for the rhythm to change to an outbreath.
Now, this is not to say that each day should be spent identically with no freedom or flexibility. That would be routine, a rut. It would have no life! Rather, there should be an overall rhythm that can be relied upon, and that will make those special exceptions all the more fun and interesting.
A big secret about this: it helps us parents, too! I love how, because we have a fairly set pattern to our days, I don’t have to spend much mental energy first thing in the morning to figure things out. I don’t have to keep a complicated schedule in my head (or a day planner).
For some people, this ease of rhythm may seem very hard to achieve. Each day brings unknowns, or our days are very full of many activities. But it’s easy to start small, because our lives are full of rhythms whether we acknowledge them or not. The sun, for instance, rises each morning. Spring follows winter. Or perhaps each of your days starts with the sound of the coffee maker gurgling to life. You might take the same route to work each day. You might call your mother every Friday (hi Nana!)
In the “olden days” (and perhaps even today among groups such as the Mennonites), women had a rhythm to their housework: “wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday,” and so on. While women of that time certainly were in a sense chained to their housework without options, we can also look upon this structure as a great help to them.
Sometimes, greater rhythms prevail. I have to laugh at myself: when my son was an infant and I was home full time with him, I developed a little housework schedule for myself. I was ambitious: I wanted a clean house and felt that since I was home all the time, I should be able to achieve it! Of course, it didn’t work out that way. Babies demand that you follow their cues, and dishwashing and vacuuming go by the wayside more often than not.
Nevertheless, I have found that after a long time with the same rhythm, something is freed up. Rudolf Steiner once said (this is one of those anecdotal comments that I can’t find published anywhere, but it makes the rounds of the Waldorf world): “Rhythm replaces strength.”
For me, an example of that would be how we manage breakfast: Anthropapa is the chief breakfast maker, while I usually help the kids get dressed. On Saturdays, we usually have pancakes. After a long time of this, one Saturday morning I realized that Papa needed some more sleep, so I cooked breakfast instead.
Lo and behold, I made some great pancakes, Papa got a few more minutes’ rest, and I had discovered that I could do something new. Now we trade off, depending on who gets themselves out of bed first.
What’s your favorite rhythm?