Surrendering to Stopping

Jill Carstens

As unpleasant as this pandemic has been, I have witnessed some pleasing scenes happening on a daily basis; families gathered in their yards together, dads walking with strollers, Instagram pictures exhibiting downright peaceful examples of simple family bliss, embracing home. I have known intrinsically, from my own childhood, that we can usually get along with less than we think we need and that, very often, children seek and do what they need to do on their own.

Our lives can be so full, maybe too full sometimes. Many, especially older kids, have ample loads of activities. It seems every moment is scheduled, not only homework, but sports, jobs and other extracurricular activities. And now all that has stopped.

How does one know how to handle “empty” time when most of their time has been scheduled?

This has been hard, stopping. But as time has accumulated during our stay-at-home requirement, there has been a shift. As we all un-schedule, I believe we are relaxing a little, realizing some things that were known by folks of another time period; the value of stopping.

I, myself, am a “do-er,” a “type-A” a multi-tasker and a bit of a perfectionist. Stress is not unknown to me. But I am also a maker, a reader and a lover of quiet. When the busy part of me is worn out, the lover of solitude takes over. It might be the part I was lucky to retain from that idyllic childhood. Now, during this stay-home time period, my two halves have sort of blended into this maker that wakes up to a loosely scheduled art-making time that segues into other tasks that need to get done, but in a much more relaxed manner. I like it. I have surrendered to this new way of living right now.

Surrendering is indeed what we all must do, in between the mask wearing, sanitizing and social-distancing. Sometimes disruptive events provide us with otherwise unforeseen opportunities. I see evidence of a mostly happy “new-normal” as we discover a slower, sort of old fashioned way of being. Once my husband and son accepted that we were not going to the mountains or see friends, we segued into a new rhythm. We busy ourselves daily with stay-home work or projects, respecting each other’s space, and then we convene for a substantial dinner and some TV-watching in the evenings. I’ve been doing all of the cooking and my husband and son cleanup, my son, originally reluctantly. But last night I realized, as they cleaned up together, they have been having lively, intentional conversations. I will definitely miss all that when my son gets social again and doesn’t show up for dinner as much…

I hope all of your children are moving past uttering, “I’m bored” and have discovered a rhythm. If this does not seem the case, refrain from attempting to solve the problem of boredom and see if they can figure it out. If necessary you can provoke them positively with leading statements or questions, such as “When was the last time you used your art supplies?” or “I wonder if there are any Ladybugs in the garden…” They might discover they have some great ideas burrowed in their brain, they just needed that pause of “nothing” to unearth it. This is healthy and will help

their brains grow in different ways than if you immediately try to fill the void for them.

If your household is chaotic, (I know many families with 3 children under the age of 5) you might have to manufacture your own stopping. Insist on quiet time at least once a day. As time goes on, I hope this will become part of your children’s inner clocks and rhythm, forever. We all need to know how to stop for a bit. Leave out quiet activities like puzzles, crayons and books for this time. Perhaps put on some contemplative music. I recommend Chopin’s Nocturne, opus 9 number 2, Debussy’s Claire de Lune, or the jazz pianist, Bill Evans. You could put this music on and all just lay down on a blanket together or have it playing in the background. “Stillpoints are life’s little moments of gold that, when taken together, can give brilliance and joy to otherwise dull days. Stillpoints are the little times, brief interludes, quick respites, one minute breaks, breathers, intermissions, and lulls…they consist as much as possible of doing nothing…and are the backbone that holds up the structure.” – Dr. David Kundtz, author of the book Stopping

If this “new-normal” does not stick, I hope we all at least recognize the value of these quieter times. What will you miss?

If you have questions, need suggestions, or maybe just want to vent, shoot me an email: I have time.

Jill Carstens is a proud Denver native, a passionate mom and a teacher her entire adult life! She picked North Denver as her home base in 1997, and has run Milestones Preschool here since 2011. If you have ideas for an article or further questions for Miss Jill, you can email her at


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