A few months ago my 4 year old said to me the words that every mother dreads, “I can’t draw.”
(Okay, maybe the words that every Mom with a background in fine arts who secretly dreams of their kids becoming artists dreads.)
My 4YO was entering the stage where he had very clear ideas of what he wanted to create — rocket ships, rainbows, houses, and train stations — but he didn’t know how to translate that to the page.
So he entered the silent period.
The silent period is a term coined by language researcher, Stephen D. Krashen.
It refers to a period when a child is learning a second language and they go through a stage of not speaking the new language. It’s a time when, according to Krashen, they are absorbing language around them. But for a variety of reasons, they do not yet speak it.
While silent kids can be unsettling for parents and educators, it’s a common part of language acquisition and is usually followed by a period of great productivity.
I’ve seen this as an art specialist applied to visual art. Young students stare at a blank sheet of paper, frustrated that they cannot communicate the image they have in their head onto paper.
So, I treated my son the same way I treated my art students: with loads of patience.
I explained that he would learn how to draw. It took practice. He would make mistakes. Mistakes are a part of learning. He would try again.
He looked back at me skeptically. He was not having it.
Months passed… Lots of blank paper… No art.
He started with rainbows.
And then quickly moved onto people.
Houses filled with square windows and rectangular chimneys came next.
Then orange trees and snow storms and rainbow cargo trains.
The silent period has passed. We are currently experiencing a renaissance in our household.
While we tend to measure ourselves based on output or productivity, we must remember that it’s okay to have silent periods of our own.
As we head into the summer as parents or as educators, it’s okay to be quiet.
It’s okay to set projects and goals aside as you process and absorb the sheer intensity of the past school year.
It’s okay to not feel creative or motivated.
It’s okay to be stuck.
Don’t rush yourself out of it.
Just acknowledge the season you are currently in.
Rest. Reflect. Sit in the silence. Right now, you are exactly where you need to be.
Lisa Bush is a writer, educator, and storyteller. She is the author of Teaching Well: How healthy, empowered teachers lead to thriving, successful classrooms and City Hall: A Dr. Ada Logan Mystery. She is the creator of the Working Mom Wellness Podcast.