A while back my mom told me about her friend’s son who had entered his school science fair. His experiment was the classic “mouse in a maze” test. The subjects: three mice. The test: going through the maze. The variable: music. For an extended period of time before the experiment, mouse number one listened to heavy metal, the second mouse listened to classical, and the third was left in silence. My freshman year in college I took a humanities class from Michael Ballam. If you are familiar with opera or LDS culture, his name might ring a bell. I spent the semester falling deeply in love with classical music and learning of the amazing benefits of it, so naturally I was sure I knew how the science experiment turned out. “Of course the classical mouse did best! Right, Mom?” She went on to tell me the results.
The heavy metal mouse was a mess. He ran around the maze so confused and totally wild. To my shock, the classical mouse did only slightly better. It was the silence that won. The mouse who sat in silence navigated the maze flawlessly.
But that wasn’t where the story ended. After the maze experiment, all the mice were placed in a box and everyone left the room. When they came back a while later, the heavy metal mouse had killed and was EATING the other mice!
Over the years as a mom I’ve had uncertainties. Who really was playing with the Lego penguin first, if allowing my kids to eat a cookie at 5 will ruin their appetite for dinner at 6, if that bonk on the head deserves a doctor’s check or if mom’s hug and kiss will suffice. But the one that has been the most challenging for me is how much time is healthy for my children to be spending away from home in extra-curricular activities.
Some of my favorite moments with my kids have always been trips to the library, picnics at the park, playing with friends, going to children’s museums, swimming lessons…all of what you might consider the “classical music” type activities. Important, wonderful, enriching. But what I’ve discovered over the years is that we need those silent moments. Those days at HOME. Just us, just being together, nothing busy, nothing complicated. I know as an introvert and a home-body my children and I might need that more frequently than many of our friends. But I really believe all of us need that time. And I’m afraid it’s a need that often gets overlooked.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” -Leonardo Da Vinci
I trust that few parents would ever expose their children to “heavy metal” type activities. If they did, Who knows! The results just might be as horrific as the mouse after the maze (heaven forbid!). But I know I have on occasion let life get too busy doing good activities and thinking they are what is best for my kids.
In our efforts to be good parents, to provide our children with ample opportunities, to make sure they’re smart, athletic, well-rounded, socially adjusted, have a plethora of friends, and happy, I hope we can remember that home is just as (or more) important as any museum, any soccer field, any dugout, any library. Those are great. I love those places! They are important. But do we, just as I did in assuming that the classical mouse would win because I’ve been taught classical music is so beneficial to all aspects of life, assume that we must fill every second of our children’s days with those extra-curricular things for them to reach their amazing potential? I’m completely convinced that those quiet times at home are vital to all aspects of their growth.
Remember the quiet moments. Don’t take them for granted. There really and truly is no place like home!
“…we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most.” -Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Very well said… your sons are blessed with their wonderful mother and you with these little boys. Their parents work together for their good. I always love to hear your thoughts! 🙂
Thank you, Dianne! I was thinking the other day about playing in our old back yard in the tree house and missing our old neighbors and neighborhood. I think I will always miss it (and especially you guys!) a little. I always love to hear your thoughts as well! 🙂
This is beautiful, Chelsi, and spot on. Too many good activities can add unnecessary stress. Sometimes I think I worry that I don’t give my son an exciting enough life. But after reading this post I realized, kids often font need as much excitement. They thrive off rituals, peace, and predictability. Thank you for this!! And as always, I love your quote. I think the two of us might just be some of Elder Uchtdorf’s biggest fans ☺
Oh my goodness, Marla, what’s funny is when I put that quote in from Elder Uchtdorf I thought the exact same thing about both of us! 🙂 I feel that way a lot too, that my kids don’t have a very exciting life. But you are so right: rituals, peace and predictability. What actually motivated this post was a friend with older high school and college age kids was telling me how she’d wished they would have spent more time at home and less time running kids to this practice or that class when they were little. It is so easy to get caught up in the running around in motherhood and forget what is really important!
I most definitely tend to be the “classical music” parent, and my oldest is only three! I never really gave too much thought to the importance of simply “being” sometimes. This was really good!!!
Oh, thank you, Sasha! That honestly means a lot coming from you! I have definitely been that “classical music” parent from time to time as well. It’s so easy to get caught up in thOse good things and forget the joys of just the simple things. It was really a reminder for me too when I wrote it!
You are absolutely right again, Chelsi. I was often criticized for not exposing my children more to the outside influences. But if I had a chance to do it over again, I would do it the same.
Im so glad you understand, Sheila! I know people have thought less of me on occasion as well for not doing more, but honestly, I know what my children turn into when they are so busy–little ungrateful monsters! We all do better in our family when we keep life simple.
Chelsi, this is very insightful. I so enjoy our nothing much moments. Especially now that my oldest is ten, I know how much more to appreciate these simple times of being a family.
Kim, I didn’t realize your oldest was ten! Yes, I have found that as my kids get older life has become much more busy. I can only imagine how it must be once they have homework every night and school activities and everything in between. Nothing moments really are special times!