One night after her bedtime book was read and her “pretend story” was told, my four-year-old daughter asked, “Mama, can we have talk time?”
I don't know why it would surprise me that she would catch wind of the Talk Time going on in Big Sister's room every single night and would want some Talk Time of her own.
As you may recall from the post entitled, “I See A Bright Spot,” Talk Time is something I have been doing with my oldest daughter since she was three-years-old.
Every night we spend approximately ten minutes just talking about life. It is an incredible means of connection for the two of us and brings a comforting assurance to my daughter.
Don't ask me why I never offered the same opportunity to my four-year-old. I’m sure I have justified it with: she’s not really old enough. Or she likes her bedtime routine just fine, why change it?
But being Hands Free means cutting the BS and being honest, sometimes painfully honest, with myself. And if I am being truly honest, the thought of having two sessions of Talk Time per night meant less “Me Time.” While there is nothing wrong with wanting “Me Time” after a long day of being a parent, sometimes there are things that matter more than “Me Time,” things that if you miss now, they will be lost forever.
So when my four-year-old stopped sucking her thumb just long enough to ask, “Can we have a little talk time, Mama,” I knew it was one of those powerful reminders that I should not, could not, ignore. I was being given the reminder to grasp what really matters. Right here. Right now.
So I did.
“O.K.” I scooted down deeper into the blankets, as if I planned to stay awhile.
“What do you want to talk about?” I asked the now very excited looking child cuddled next to me.
She looked at the ceiling and thought for a moment. “I don’t know. What do you want to talk about?”
For a moment I thought maybe I had been right; maybe she is not ready for Talk Time just yet.
But I knew I owed her at least an honorable try.
So I asked a question. For I have learned there is great power in questions. There is great potential for connection in questions. Questions can open doors that would otherwise remain closed. Within a question, a treasure can be found.
“Is there anything you want to know about when I was a child?” I asked.
She smiled and thought pensively while sucking her thumb and rubbing her nose.
Suddenly she smiled and asked, “What were your friends called?”
I told her the name of my very first best friend, who happened to be a boy. This piece of information brought a look of astonishment to her face as she thought to herself: Mama’s first best friend was a boy with red hair! Well, imagine that!
I proceeded to tell her how Matt and I played for hours in a tree house that her Paw Paw built with his own two hands.
Next came, “When was your birthday when you were little?”
The thought that my birthday was different date when I was little than what it is now gave me a chuckle. I went on to tell her about a wonderful slumber party I had when I was ten-years-old.
Next was, “Where do bunnies live?”
I am certainly no animal expert, but I was able to answer that one.
Followed by, “Where do magic bunnies live?”
I didn’t know the answer to that one, but no worries because she did.
She confidently informed me, “Magic Bunnies live in Bunnyland, which is way far away just past Lady Gaga’s apartment.”
Which, of course, lead to, “Where does Lady Gaga live?”
Our ten minutes of “talk time” concluded after I described the pink furry decorations that adorned the walls of Lady Gaga’s London townhouse (just guessing).
The next day I found myself anxiously awaiting Talk Time with my four-year-old. I wondered what her interesting line of questioning would be this time. I imagined we would again share another night of laughter and reminiscing.
But that night, instead of childhood questions about me, it was childhood questions about her.
“What did I do when I was a baby, Mama?” was the question that got things started.
Next was, “What kind of clothes did I wear?”
Which somehow lead to: “Are their sharks in Hilton Head?”
Which somehow lead to: “Do people have light up hair when they sing?”
Then, “Is Rapunzel real?” Ok, so there was a logical connection between questions once in awhile.
Finally we ended on, “How many boo-boos did I get today?” This involved counting and kisses. What better way to end a day?
We have continued Talk Time for two weeks now. She never ceases to amaze and delight me. Although every night brings a string of original questions, there is one question that repeatedly comes up.
Every single night my daughter asks, “How much longer is Talk Time?”
My four-year-old loves Talk Time so much she doesn’t want it to end. And surprisingly, I have found that I don’t want it to end either.
I love it because it is not Talk Time, not in the way that it is Talk Time with my-seven-year old. I should have known that Talk Time with my second daughter would not be like Talk Time with my first daughter because they are different in so many beautiful ways.
My four-year-old’s version of Talk Time is actually Question Time. For ten whole minutes she is free to ask the questions that she ponders in that unbelievably clever four-year-old mind of hers.
And for ten minutes she has a totally focused, undistracted parent ready to explore and answer the questions of her heart.
Isn't that what all kids truly long for…to have the freedom to ask the questions of life? Is there any better gift I can give my child than to allow her to ask questions without fear of judgment, without fear of being hurried along, without fear of being completely ignored?
My “Me Time” can wait. Right now there is a four-year-old with questions that only her parent can answer. With sadness I realize that someday she will have her own answers, and she won't need mine.
Yet, part of me wants to believe that because I am answering her questions now (and through the next critical years), she may continue to turn to me for answers even when she has plenty of her own.
Although I try not to berate myself over things I wish I had done sooner, I can’t help but wonder what questions I may have lost as she fell asleep pondering them all by herself.
Yet, my loving Hands Free inner voice is quick to remind me that it’s not about yesterday; it’s about today, and the choices I make today.
Last night I made the choice to hold off writing a story that so desperately yearned to be written. Instead I had Question Time with my four-year-old.
She surprised me by saying she only had one question. And then with a trembling lip and teary eyes she asked, “Mama, when will we go to heaven?”
Before I attempted to answer the very best way I could, I said quick prayer of gratitude.
I may have missed a few questions along the way, but thank God, I didn’t miss this one.
And I don’t plan on missing anymore.
Whether it turns out as Talk Time or Question Time, try it tonight. Whether they are three-years-old or thirteen-years-old, begin the conversation. Put your own agenda for the night on hold and give your child ten minutes. You might be surprised as time stands still and the treasures within your child’s heart are uncovered. Don't put this one off; do it tonight.
Wow Rachel….. What an amazing story u have shared with us…. Talk time. I love it…. And can’t wait to stet it…. Tonight!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Thank you, Jennifer! Please let me know how it goes. I know you will have some great stories to share about that clever little thinker at your house!
Thank you for sharing these words with us, for letting us into your life that we might grow and learn ourselves. Such a beautiful tale and such inspiration to be just a bit more selfless – just look at the blessings in store!
Thank you, again.
My barely 3-year-old would love this! I will try it! Your ideas and insights are always what I need to hear 🙂
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Oh good! I am so glad to hear this is something you might want to try with your little ones. Please let me know how it goes!
I just discovered your site and found this post. I’m curious, do you set a timer for talk time, watch the clock, not really an issue as things wind down anyway…? Thank you.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Hi Anne, thanks for your interest. I usually watch the clock only because both my children (6 and 9) have the tendency to make talk time or question time last as long as possible! As my oldest child is beginning to hit the more challenging school years, there have been occasions when she brings up something important that is worrying her. In that instance, I usually talk to her until she feels okay about going to sleep. We usually come to a peaceful solution within 15 minutes though. Then I follow up with her in the morning. Good luck! Let me know if you have any more questions.
My 4 year old asks questions all the way to town (20 minute drive & all the way home!) normally I’m so distracted with watching other drivers that I never have time to answer her questions. I do my best to answer her sweet questions, but she has SO many that I always just giggle and think where do these all come from? I know there is so much LEARNING happening in that sweet, little head of hers and I want to answer every one of those questions! What a great idea Rachel!
While your older child soon will have answers all her own, their basis will be in the answers you are giving her now. When she was 15, I became (foster) Mom to my daughter…who is now married and a mom on her own. I always chuckle when she calls me with questions or concerns, but before I can respond she always answers herself by drawing on what we’ve talked about or what I’ve shared with her in the past. And now, each night at bedtime, I curl up with my now 6 year old son (who is also missing his two front teeth and soon a bottom one), and spend as much time as I can laying next to him talking about our days, our lives, the universe, love, and anything else that is difficult and sucks the breath out of me (like heaven, and questions about his birth mom). But I answer with love, honesty, and sometimes tears and he knows it is safe to talk to me about anything. We conclude by him telling me what he is going to dream about so he can set himself up for sweet dreams. It is by far my favorite time of day!
Julie Potter says
Several months ago my daughter (then 5, now 6) and I started having “talking time” after books were done and lights were out. It’s not every night, but was a few times a week, and now that I think about it we haven’t done it in maybe a month or so. Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes I’m so eager to get back downstairs for some quiet time (she is the oldest of 3), but “talking time” is so much more important!