Creating Calm at Home by Jennifer de Azevedo
Growing up in a very loving, calm home with one pretty chill younger brother, I believed motherhood would be just like a beautiful movie montage. I imagined picnics, red wagons, and kites as we all skipped and sang through the park. My children would always get along, be respectful and well-behaved. I was sure of it. After all, my brother and I had been good kids. How hard could motherhood be?
Fast forward a few years . . .
I would become the mother of three boys. With three boys running around, a house can feel a little overwhelming and really, really loud (see my children's book ELECTRIC through Lawley Publishing). I remember one day I was watching the clock, waiting for the time the boy's dad would be home and thinking, "I'm not going to make it."
Fast forward a few more years, and I would become a SINGLE mother of three boys. At the time, I ran a small marketing/sales company and was the only parent showing up for my kids. Having a calm atmosphere in my home was not a luxury . . . it was a necessity. Today, with a global pandemic and all of us spending more time at home, keeping a calm tone in our home is vital for everyone's mental and emotional well-being (especially parents). When my boys were little, and I felt like I was at my wit's end, I found I could control the energy in my home with three things.
3. Story Time
First, I put on beautiful music. Something soft and melodic always calms the room. When my second son was born, the hospital gave out a CD called Smart Symphonies to all the parents of new babies. Studies have shown classical music is good for brain development, so I would put it on, hoping it would help my little boys, but found it had an added benefit: it calmed the entire house down. I have also used jazz (my personal favorite), spa music, Native American flute music, etc. Find a sound that you enjoy and works for your family, and then see what happens.
The next thing I would do to create calm in my home was dim the lights. Bright, harsh lighting can negatively affect the tone in your home, as well. Turn the blinds down, so it's not so bright, turn off your harsh lights and turn on a dim lamp. I installed dimmers on all the light switches in our house to control the brightness of our rooms. (It is not that expensive to do.) I have also used Christmas lights on a bookshelf to create beautiful lighting in a pinch.
Once I set the tone with calming music and dim lighting, my last line of defense was to unplug and have storytime. I would send the boys to pick their favorites. (Of course, they would come back with stacks of books.) Storytime not only forced everyone, including me, to settle down, but it also gave me a chance to breathe, snuggle up, and make some of my favorite memories with my kids. In order to do this, you have to be emotionally able to let go of your day and just be together. If you cannot do that, you will feel frustrated while you read. Think of it as meditation for the entire house. Be still, breathe, and just be.
We did a lot of reading in those days, probably more for me than for my boys. I'm pretty sure I still have the books Go Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman and Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss memorized from reading them so many times. My oldest son could recite My Monster Mama Loves Me So by Laura Leuck without even having the book in front of him. Some of our other favorite stories to read were The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, all of David Shannon's books (No, David!, David Goes to School, David Gets in Trouble), and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. We also loved There's a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer and all of Shell Silverstein's books, poems, and stories. Of course, we cannot forget everything by Dr. Seuss!
Two of my boys are "adults" now. Few things make me feel as good or bring back so many great memories as when they say, "You used to read that to us all the time," or "You probably read us that book a hundred times."
Studies show the added benefits of reading to your kids are*:
· Listening skills
· Cognitive and language development
· Expanded vocabulary
· Life lessons
· Social and emotional development