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Staying Home

The past few winters I had been doing the usual dash from place to place, taking Beatrice to classes across town or out to lots of playdates. For a long while I was also taking her to childcare a couple of times a week, first as part of a childcare swap I had organized with a friend and then later at a cozy home daycare.

This winter we’ve been staying home a lot.

We wanted to save some money, so we didn’t register at any expensive classes across town. I decided not to find a replacement childcare spot when the home daycare she had been attending disbanded. When we went to the daycare’s farewell picnic I wasn’t sure what an entire winter of unscheduled time together with a toddler and a preschooler would look like, but I was pretty sure I was going to really miss the structured activities.

We started this trend of staying in during the first snow of the season. Now that we’re halfway through January and well past the rush of Christmas, I can feel that we’ve hit our stride with this winter routine. To my surprise, most days we stay home. And to my even greater surprise, we like it.

Claire piling stuffed animals on top of Bea

Finding a Daily and Weekly Rhythm That Works for Us

We’ve been doing lots of drawing and writing, colouring with markers, building with blocks, playing with clay. We spend time bird watching. We sit on the couch and read books, Little House on the Prairie, Madeline, Bob Books and Rainbow Magic Fairy stories (totally gak, but she loves them). The girls play dressup, ballerina fairy princesses and cats and “you be the baby and I’ll be the mama”. We wander down to the playground after naptime. We go to homeschooling drop-ins a couple of times a week to visit with friends. On Mondays I bake bread. I play a little at the piano after lunch sometimes. It’s slow. It’s low-key. And maybe it’s the magic of a few months of maturation, or maybe it’s the increased connection and decreased stress, but like Kelly Hogaboom describes in her recent post, Owning It; Opening up, I feel like the amount of misbehaviour and conflict in our house has gone down significantly. I still enjoy a couple of hours of time alone to work and write in the evenings, but I’m not spending all day just waiting for that time.

In some ways I’m not surprised I’m enjoying these days at home. After all, I am an introvert. I like my own space, and I’m quite happy to be alone. What I wasn’t expecting was how well the girls like being home too. They are at ages now where they can and do play together quite happily or entertain themselves for a while. I’m sure there will come a time when they will want to be with their friends more, and that it will be more appropriate to spend a greater proportion of time out visiting or taking classes. I’m sure it will change with the seasons as well, with more time spent outdoors and with other people as the sun returns. But right now, we’re spending lots of our rainy winter days inside playing and working on projects together, and that’s totally fine by me.

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  • Kelly January 18, 2011, 12:26 am

    It’s so wonderful to read of someone who’s found joy in spending days like this. And yes, your daughters are forming memories, bone-deep (whether they’ll consciously remember them later or no). How fortunate and wise you all are to experience this time with awareness and enjoyment!

  • Cynthia January 18, 2011, 1:01 am

    That sounds so cozy and nice. It has taken me a lot to get past the guilt and be okay with staying home most days. I love it and my kids seem fine with it too. It was only external expectations, real or imaginary, that made me feel that I “should” be going out and doing something with them most days. Some days that should-guilt still makes an appearance, so it’s very affirming and encouraging to read things like this.

    • michelle January 18, 2011, 8:59 am

      I think that expectations definitely have a lot to do with feeling like we “should” be going out to some incredible field trip every day. Part of this is our culture of achievement, I think. Taking the kids to the aquarium feels like I “got something done” that day, whereas reading Goldie the Sunshine Fairy for the third time, well, not so much. But the more we get used to being at home the better the girls are at directing their own play, which leads to them “getting things done” in their extended play sessions, and I have a chance to get things done for myself then too.

      I do hope they’ll remember these days in some way, whether conscious or not.

  • Rachael January 18, 2011, 7:43 am

    Oh, sounds so lovely. I’ve been fretting about the darkness and cold and bad weather (we’ve got the dread “wintry mix” raining down on us in New York today) and looking forward to spring. Whereas instead I could be taking out all of the Critter’s lovely new art supplies for some indoor play….

  • Danielle January 18, 2011, 11:43 am

    We went out today. It was my first time out since Saturday and that was just to the grocery store. I’m usually pretty okay with the fact that we are, mostly, in, but sometimes I feel that nudge, that expectation, that we should be doing more out.

    Glad to hear someone else is in and enjoying it as much as I do.