When I am planning on changing gears with my children it is customary for me to give them a bit of a warning before we switch to a new thing. I let them know it’s time to finish reading their page, to pause their show, or to put toys away before we move on to the next task or activity – be it tooth brushing, getting out the door, or cleaning up their mess they left out.
Lots of parents do this as a way to help prepare their kids to transition from one thing to the next, though some parents surely have more luck with their children complying than others.
I am not sure when we stop doing this, creating a bit of slowness as we ramp down one activity and pick up the next, but I think this habit of creating transition space is actually a really important practice.
It has been a busy and full season in my home. Summer means the kids are at home when I am, and that my time is entirely spent with people, either at work being a therapist or at home being a mom. Since opening my own counselling practice, I have also cut down on my commute time – the 15 to 30 minutes it used to take me to navigate the streets of Winnipeg have been drastically reduced – and I have noticed myself missing the built in transition time that my old commute offered.
It has felt quite often that things simply blur from one thing to the next, and I don’t always feel like I am fully present or keeping up with each shift.
At this particular moment, I am alone and waiting for a late flight into Winnipeg after spending some time being present with family navigating some difficult stuff. My time sistering has been rich and meaningful and important – but it was also full and as I prepared to go home (late) and launch into the first day of school with my kids (early), I knew I needed a bit of space to transition back from sister to mom.
So here I sit at the airport. I asked to be dropped off a few hours early so I had space to sit and listen to podcasts and ignore other travellers. Space to be in my own world, where I could breathe slow and not be in motion.
And then I looked out the window and saw STOP in red and white etched on the ground, almost as affirmation that yes, this pause to slow down before gearing up is exactly what is needed.
I realize that 2 hour intervals of uninterrupted time are a ridiculous luxury not many of us have. I realize that this is an unusual transition. But I think that making room to move from one thing to the next can be less consuming and more subtle.
Perhaps it means taking a scenic route home from work and enjoying the view, rather than the most efficient. Maybe it means asking for 5 minutes of quiet in your room after coming home before engaging in conversation about the day. Or it could be something as simple as an evening cup of tea once the day has been tidied up, marking the transition from work to rest.
I don’t know what makes sense for your life, or what transitions may best suit your schedule and circumstance – but I do know that running frenetically from one thing to the next can be exhausting, depleting, and can create an unhealthy amount of stress and anxiety in our bodies.
As you think of your day and the twists and turns and shifts it takes – maybe it’s worthwhile to consider how to implement a bit of slow down time, or moments to stop, where you can regroup and recharge before launching into the next item on your list.
Maybe this moment is the time to slow, to notice your breath, and to close your eyes for a brief pause.
Let’s be as kind to ourselves as we would to our kids, and see what happens.