Hannah sometimes comes home from school ticking off a list of kids who had to sit in the Thinking Chair that day. She tells me who the offender was, what they did, how they reacted and how she promises she’ll Never Ever have to sit in the dreaded Thinking Chair. The “Chair” is the consequence for a child’s third offense in a day. First offense the child is given a verbal warning. Second offense, the child gets her name written on the blackboard for all to see. And if a third offense occurs, the child is directed to a small blue chair, off in the corner of the room to sit. Alone. To think. Alone. Until the teacher feels the child has learned her lesson.
Many of us have our version of the Thinking Chair in our house. We have a “naughty step” where Hannah and Luke are sent when I just can’t bare to look at them anymore after they’ve been behaving horrendously. For Hannah it’s the top step of the stairs. For Luke it’s the third from the bottom. (Don’t Ask.) Unfortunately for me, he actually LIKES to sit on the step. He sits with his hands in his lap with a silly grin on his face shouting, “HI Mommy!” while I try to keep a stern angry look on my face and wag my finger at him shouting, “You STAY there for a whole two minutes until you can LISTEN!”. “Oh Tay Mommy”, he usually says, happily sitting, swinging his feet.”
The Thinking Chair in my house really doesn’t work. Hannah spends the whole time screaming, not thinking. Luke thinks it’s a game and certainly doesn’t Think for even a millisecond while he’s there. This is why the top step and third step from the bottom have done nothing recently but gather dust.
I have a Thinking Chair of my own in my house.
I don’t use it as a place to sit when I’ve been naughty. Instead it really is the chair that I find myself doing the most thinking. It sits in the corner of Luke’s room. It’s blue and white gingham, extra wide and overstuffed. It reclines and it glides. I spent months nursing Luke in this chair. Months sleeping with him in this chair. More months sleeping on my own in the chair while he struggled to sleep in his crib. I’ve read him countless tractor, truck and car books in this chair and I’ve sung him thousands of lullabies from this chair.
But the times I cherish most in this chair are the minutes I just sit in his dimly lit room. Shadows on the wall cast from the tiny nightlight in the opposite corner. I can only hear the Waterfall soothing sound coming from his sound machine as it blocks out most other sounds coming from downstairs or even next door in Hannah’s room. I sit comfortably in the dark quiet and watch Luke’s little feet tap each reachable bar of his crib, a routine he’s recently started before he falls asleep. I watch him softly stroke his blankies with the palm of his hand. The back of his hand. The palm of his hand. He sucks on one corner of the blanket while his hand caresses it. Before he drifts off to sleep he lifts his head off the mattress to make sure I’m still sitting there and then quietly whispers, “nigh nigh mommy”. I know that’s my cue that I can leave.
But I stay.
And I think. I think without distractions. Without my phone blinking by my side. Without the TV disturbances. Without Hannah Needing anything from me. I think about the day. And yesterday. And tomorrow. Lots of tomorrows. I clear my head. I have a chance to remember details. Flip through pictures in my head of things that have happened. Are happening. I’ve shed a few tears in that chair. And no one has known. I’ve breathed deep sighs. With no one asking me, “What’s wrong?”. I’ve dreamed. And smiled at those dreams. Being able to totally appreciate them with no one telling me I’m being silly.
I love that chair. That space. I love that I share it with Luke. Although he has no idea. I always wish I could stay a few more minutes. To breathe in the quiet. The darkness. The sound of his slowed breathing. But I fear waking him as I sneak out.
And the fact that it is a place I cannot sit for long makes it that much more special. Helps me appreciate it.
Everyone needs a Thinking Chair. For me it’s a Good place to sit. And I’d like to be sent there Any Time.