I wrote this when we were first learning about daily rhythms and young children. We were attending the Waldorf-inspired parenting group and Briony was about 8 months at the time. I think it is still relevant to us now, and perhaps even more so.
Rhythm is the component of music we are most familiar with by the time we are born. We are already exposed to the rhythm of our mother’s heartbeat, the rhythm of walking and maybe even dancing. Songs we learn are organized and structured through rhythm, which we can recognize by the time we are about 12 months old. Other components of music, such as melody, harmony, timbre, tempo and mode define characteristics of songs, but it is often the rhythm that we are immediately drawn to. Think of all the times you clapped along to a song you’ve never heard before. It was the steady rhythm, or the pulse, that made that possible. This gives us a sense of belonging and order even if the music is unfamiliar.
What does this have to do with the rhythm of daily life that we establish for our children? It is the sense of feeling at home in a comfortable place that rhythm provides for our young children as they learn to navigate the world. It is also what gives us that same feeling when we listen to music we can “groove with” and just be, no matter what our state of mind might be.
Imagine that the over-all rhythm of the week is the pulse, or what you would clap along to. Each night and day alternates: night, day, night, day. What happens in between does not matter as of yet, you are just learning the pulse. You can clap along and that is satisfying enough. As you become more familiar with the rhythm, you notice that day has more going on. There are little rhythms within that time. As you learn those rhythms, you are able to add increasingly complex sounds to the clapping. This becomes even more satisfying.
Now think of a song you know very well. The better you know the song, the more enjoyable it is to engage in the complexities of the music. Maybe something happens at a certain point of the song that excites you: a certain rhythmic pattern, a shift in meter, modulation or change in instrumentation. It could be a part of the song that stands out to you; the part you wait for every time you hear the song. It is always there to satisfy your anticipation. This is like the special moment of the day that the child anticipates. Whether it is a story before bedtime or a walk before lunch, it has its place that feels right. It is this rhythm, which you have brought your child into, that provides the safety and satisfaction to feel at home and in one’s place. It is rhythm that is the great organizer of the many facets of our life.
How do you honor the rhythm of life with your child?