I love getting up early, usually around 5am. I love the silence of the house, still wrapped in sleep. I use the three quarters of an hour before waking the kids to have a good coffee, pray for the day ahead and to make school lunches. It’s a time sacred time for me, a necessary stillness before the loud and vibrant day begins.
Yesterday while I was shredding chicken to make rolls, one of my sons came through and pulled up a stool at the kitchen counter. He was uncharacteristically early, uniform on and hair brushed. The vibrant day had arrived, thirty minutes ahead of schedule.
“I have three questions,” he said as he leaned his elbows on the counter.
“OK, shoot!” I said with a smile, amazed that while my brain was still waking up, he had already pondered that many things.
We chatted while I pottered and once all his questions were answered to his satisfaction, he hopped off the stool to make his breakfast.
I forget now what the questions were, they we obviously not that important. But as I thought back to that moment throughout the day, I was reminded how important it is that our kids have questions and that we are there to answer them. I also thought about how screen time and digital distraction can so negatively impact both our children’s thought lives and our availability to answer their questions.
Questions emerge from a time of pondering. When our brains are given time and space to be quiet and think deeply, we process our experiences, weigh up what we have seen and heard and form our own opinions. We also come up with new ideas and potential solutions to problems. Often in this process we need a safe space to ask for input, express our ideas and come to our own conclusions about the world around us.
This is a very important function of the human brain, and especially the brains of our children which are forming neuro-pathways all the time. They need space to process both negative and positive experiences, to talk about things they don’t understand and to have values-based input from those who love them most.
If we don’t have time and space within our homes when devices are off and brains are quiet our children don’t have a chance to do this. If they go from school to sport to piano to homework to screentime, when do their brains get the much-needed space to just think? To ponder? To ask?
And if they spend excessive time on screens, being fed a steady stream of other people’s opinions and ideas, when do they get the chance to come up with their own?
So this short, sweet early-morning chat with my boy has reminded me to make time for quiet, for thought, for questions.
A probably even more important, it has reminded me that when my kids have these questions, I need to put down my phone, look into their beautiful faces and make time to give them answers.