How the Rhythm Saves Me

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?



Filed under Family, life, Parenting, waldorf education

11 responses to “How the Rhythm Saves Me

  1. Rhythm is definitely our friend too. Each day has a similar shape to it, which means our kids know what to expect and know what comes next. There is of course ample free and play time, but the general shape of the day is defined. This makes things like bedtime relatively straightforward, which is important for me. Since I work from home, I need to know that after 8pm my time is my own.

  2. Bex

    I love you, I love you, I LOVE YOU!
    Why haven’t I been reading you always?
    You’re writing exactly what I am wanting to read.
    Please pop over to mine anytime you please & if you have any advice to share I would glady accept it.
    Thank-you! Xxx

  3. Charlotte: I’m struggling a bit with bedtime. The kids are in bed by about 7:30 pm, but quite often they’re still in there yakking to each other at 8:30! I’d be fine with a little talking, but it just doesn’t stop. I just can’t find a way to work with it. Are all of your kids in one room together? Have you had any similar experiences?

    Bex: Hi! You’re too kind. Funny how you were just posting about your rhythms the other day. I’ll be perusing your archives right now!

  4. This is our single biggest challenge, and I know that KARMA is involved! I have birthed two control freaks (um, like Momma!) who are as different as night and day: early-riser v. sleeper, vegetarian v. meat-eater, left-handed v. right-, homebody v. socialite…the list goes on, even through their learning styles. Without being overly controlling, how does a mom create a rhythm that accomodates everyone, while still being productive? As for now, we are in School Holiday-hell, and with the neighbourhood children running mad, there is no way I shall get these munchkins back into a flow. Oh well…

  5. Rhythm is important in our family even with older children. For us, school provides a lot of rhythm, and I find that I need to spend time at the beginning of each summer finding what’s right to guide our days–of course summer is looser than during the school year, but I still try to create a daily and weekly rhythm of inbreath and outbreath for us all.

  6. Goodwitch: I’ve struggled with that too: boy and girl, thinker and doer, adult-oriented and self-contained, etc. I was just reading about fairy tales last night, and the question of reading to mixed-age groups. The answer was: don’t worry! Reading a story for 5-6 year olds will interest the 3-4 year olds, and will go a bit over their heads, and if they get restless they’ll go off to play. I think the really little ones (3-4) will pretty much go along with whatever everyone else is doing, so maybe you could focus on Biggie for the specifics of your schedule?

    Sarah: That’s what I’ve discovered: even if rhythm is generally emphasized for early childhood, it benefits any age, even us adults.

  7. Ah, rhythm. Just posted about this on my blog this morning. Isn’t this the constant Waldorf mama refrain?!

  8. I love this post! We recently had to change up our rhythms too. It really is nice for the kids (and the grown ups!) to know what to expect. It leaves them with more time to play, imagine, and dream, instead of worrying about what’s coming next.

  9. I learned a lot with rhythym, it sure makes life easier, and not only in relation to the kids! It also made me realize how important it is to find/respect a rhythym for my own life.

    Great post!

  10. Pingback: Finding rhythm | parenting, simply.

  11. Pingback: Crunchy Chewy Mama » Blog Archive » Moving targets — when your kid can’t count on you

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s