Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Friday, September 05, 2008

Siesta Redux



Years ago, when I just started to think about having a child, I wrote a book about it. I wondered if Things My Mother Told Me: Reflections on Parenthood would read very naïve after I became a mother. But I don’t think it does. It is a collection of the things my mother got right. Things she said that made us kids think, or encouraged good habits; things she did that brought the family together. I still aspire to duplicate some of these positives.

One of the chapters is called Siesta Time. On weekends and over the summer, we kids were asked to retreat to our rooms. I don’t remember how long we spent there-—maybe a half hour? The only rule for these times was to do something quietly, and do it alone.

Looking back, these were creative times for me. I discovered that it was okay to feel restless, and also that it was okay to just rest. I rarely closed my eyes. On more restless days, I’d create something: a poem, a planetarium on the ceiling, a song. I didn’t feel, however, that I was “getting something done.” These creations were just natural occurrences, small gifts from the mind that’s allowed to wander. On more low key days I would sit and daydream.

As Gavin grows I see the Siesta as an important life skill. His generation is twice as stimulated as mine was in childhood. There is always something to plug into, and this translates into relying on something external to fill your needs. How important it is to be able to sit with yourself and learn to like your own company! How important to take the time to figure out what you think and feel, who you are.

Our Siesta experiment has only just begun. The first time, I relished stretching out on my own bed and hearing Gavin down the hall, tinkering with toys and humming to himself. It was a novelty for both of us. The second time, he seemed to find Siesta physically painful. He complained of a headache. How hard it was for him to take a break!

I look at grownups all around me with this aversion to Siesta, and that includes myself at times. What a gift it will be if Gavin (and the rest of us) learn that it is okay to spend some time just thinking, just quiet, achieving absolutely nothing tangible. Gavin did seem to get my analogy of your body being like a car, and siesta being like a refuel that keeps it going. For a week that’s left me running on empty, it’s a great time to heed my own advice. Even better, in the midst of all the madness we had a new mattress delivered. Yes, sometimes the universe conspires for Siesta.

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