trusting in the space

I am reading Nurturing Children and Families by Sarah Baldwin. The beauty and gentleness of the book is softening me on this bright spring morning as I wait a little impatiently for rain. I especially love how Sarah describes birthday celebrations in her parent and child programme. They have such lovely simplicity. A birthday song, a gold cape and crown, a birthday candle on a muffin at lunch time. That is enough to make, for each child in their turn, a special day at playgroup.

It's popular these days to talk about minimalising our homes, but people still rush about filling every moment with activities, enjoyment, significance. As if we must always make the most of life. Films and stories have become increasingly visually complex and overfilled with meaning. This week, we watched an old movie and were struck by the spaciousness and simplicity of the story, and the strength this gave it - similar to the classic fairtyales.

It seems to me that many people no longer have the instinct to create a space and trust in it. Parents enrich their children's days with intricate toys, activities, educational moments. Advisors lay out a full blueprint for success over several weeks. Storytellers provide every intimate detail of their characters' relationship.

It seems to me that, in all the offering-up, there is really very little giving.

Creating a space involves space. Emptiness that the other person may fill themselves. And trust - that space is effective, that the other person will find what they need without our intervention, and that what they find will be good enough.


  1. This is beautiful, Sarah and you describe space in ways that I had not properly considered. Yes, we are so distrustful of anything filling our spaces these days, to the point where we won't allow them to exist. I will be mindful of this through my days having read your words. Thank you xx

  2. Your words here are beautiful and insightful--wonderful post! It's so funny that you wrote about this today, because it is something I have also been pondering lately. Our entire culture is marked by filling every space and every moment in our lives. We believe this is the secret to "living fully". But that is because we are afraid of silence, of contemplation, of experiencing our intrinsic emptiness and aloneness. It makes sense that we don't trust our children to be able to know what to do in the space of their lives either, so we "fill" them up with as many toys and gadgets and activities as possible.

    There is an artist who created a photo series depicting how cell phones have become our identities. The photographs are ridiculous and almost frightening looking, but they demonstrate our deep attachment to filling up all of our daily space with "meaning":

    I also highly recommend this short video clip of Comedian Louis CK in a late night interview on Conan O'Brien sharing about the fullness of life he found in giving himself the space to be alone and experience his emptiness:

    I do want to add that it bothers me that parents are more likely to see the value in emptying their children's time and space rather than their own. Why should the child find value in something that is not valuable to his parent?

  3. Thank you for those links :)

    In reply to your last paragraph,i think too many of us can understand looking after our children, but our self care instincts have been wrecked over the years by various cultural and economic influences. Many women relearn how to look after themselves by helping their children first. :)

    1. I think this is true in theory but not in practice. As families grow up the members tend to become more like the common culture. For example, the only people in society who are not constantly plugged in to their smartphones are the very young and the very aged. As for the rest of us, I don't know many people who have established real media boundaries for themselves, or real work boundaries (both take up a great deal of personal space and time today).

      Several years ago I asked a question on a Catholic forum about the Church's teaching on contraception. My question was: "Where, then, are all the children???" The sheepish reply was, "We know the truth, but we don't practice it." That answer applies to so many areas of life. We have developed a culture entrenched in satisfying personal whims. Yes, we have lost our instinct for self-care--which has at its core nature, the senses, discipline, and sobriety.

  4. When our kids were little, I made a conscious effort to not fill their days remembering my own childhood with hours of 'free' time! Children need to be 'bored', to draw on their own resources to entertain themselves, to not have every moment of their days scheduled. Yes, they need space...

  5. Beautiful. I long for slow simple days, for time to be quiet and reflect and to not rush between tasks. Maybe it's just autumn and the coming winter speaking. But I feel like resting now :)

  6. I like the make believe world we once had, where the simplest of objects entertained and created wonder. And it still can be...
    Intriguing and thoughtful post, Sarah.

  7. My dear, sweet Sarah, your words are so very true. I see such a difference in the children that have their days packed pull of activities and things from the children that are not rushed about and forced to particpate in every little thing. Such words of wisdom, my friend.

    Have a wonderful weekend. Hugs!

  8. Nodding my head (and my heart). I have been noticing this for long, from our home-learning days when I had to keep shoring up my confidence with my spacious my dissatisfaction with many of the movies and series I enjoy becoming too dense and convoluted to believe or derive pleasure the creating of my newest space and trusting that it's very spareness is part of its reason for being.

    When I was taking care of my mom (with Alz.), old movies and certain gentle cooking shows were the only things she could enjoy...the only visuals that didn't contribute to her confusion and anxiety. Sometimes, I feel like those with compromised minds are canaries in our coal mines and can reveal things to us, if we are watching and listening.

  9. such wonderful things to consider.
    the birthday celebration you share sounds lovely, more in sync with my heart than elaborate goings on.

    space.... to find comfort in space... one must be comfortable within themselves.

  10. So true! There is a lot of worth in simplicity.

  11. Your words, as always, are beautiful. (I have been a reader of yours for nearly two years, being silently inspired by your words and command of language, but never commenting.)

    I do believe that, as a culture, we are obsessed with filling every waking moment with something, we cannot handle the silence or the "boredom" of just sitting in quiet reflection. We are so focused on other things that our own self-care, and dare I say some aspects of care for our family, falls to the wayside. We have forgotten our connection with Nature, which is a wonderful way to just re-balance everything--getting outside, breathing fresh air, getting some sun; this all balances our natural rhythm.

    My children are constantly on the go, switching between ideas and activities, of their own choice. I let them alone to do their own thing most of the time. I do not fill their time with learning, I let them come to me with their questions. We watch shows about the Universe and Space and History--we read, yes, but they find it difficult to sit still. My youngest is so enamoured with public schooling and she just wants to do what her big brother is doing.

    I feel that that is part of the problem. I have wanted nothing more, since becoming a mother, to home-school my children. Though they love the concept of it, they dislike the actual act and just want to go to a "real" school. It saddens my heart. And then they see all of their friends doing all of these activities after school, and all I want them to do is come home and play outside, play with their dozens of toys that family members buy, who help with housework.

    I will not lay blame on anyone or anything, but I will say that as a society, as a race, humans are in serious need of some down time. We need a time out, we need to just chill, and we need to just breathe. Sometimes it is nice to just sit back and listen to the wind, or the waves, or the birds. Sometimes, all we need is a bit me-time to centre ourselves.

    Pardon my rambling. This is one place that I do feel strongly about. I do advocate the serious need for some silence throughout the day, for some down time, and I am working on implementing simplicity into our lives. It is a long process, de-cluttering and simplifying everything. One step at a time, right?

  12. Thank you so much Tori. I have been a strong advocate for homeschooling over the years but I also do think public school is right for some children. It does have its challenges, such as wanting to copy their friends, but homeschooling has its challenges too. I wish I could write more but must dash, leaving only hugs ...