If you’re not a parent, you may be unfamiliar with the phrase “witching hour.” Or maybe you’re familiar with it as an occult term and you are somewhat taken aback and horrified when you hear parents utter it.
If that’s the case, let me enlighten you.
When parents refer to the witching hour, we’re talking about a period of time during the day when everyone and everything in our house goes completely off the rails and we want to just go hide under the blankets until the day ends.
Does that about sum it up, parents?
I’ve heard different hours of the day described this way, but it’s generally a late afternoon/evening thing when, actually, what everyone needs IS to be under their blankets. Asleep. Because we’re all tired and kind of need a nap.
For rational adults, the response to this would be…well, to take a nap. For children, though, naps are a torture device, and their tiredness only reinforces their belief that this is the case. Also, for children, tiredness sometimes leads to crazy-person behavior.
So in our house, I kind of just think of the entire period between school and bed as potential for this insanity. It’s not always the witching hour. But it always could be.
We have four children in elementary school: Third grade, second grade, first grade, and kindergarten. Don’t even try to figure it out. It will make your brain hurt.
This means four folders, four planners to sign, four sets of homework to help with, four backpacks with lunchboxes and water bottles to go through every day. Four pairs of shoes and socks coming off and going every which direction, four mouths that need snacks, four little voices that have a lot of words.
And that’s just in the first hour.
Then, well, you know the drill. Make dinner, break up fights, fold laundry, break up fights, make tomorrow’s lunches, break up fights, clean up the kitchen that looks like a war-zone, turn on Elena of Avalor because I have no more breaking up of fights left in me.
These 5 hours can seriously do me in from time to time.
But lately I’ve been wondering something. Maybe it’s not really those four crazies turning the evening into the witching hour. Maybe, in fact, it’s me.
I’ve Met The Enemy…It’s me
I realized one day a few months ago that between 3:00 and 8:00pm, my brain was anywhere but present. Sure I was doing all of the above. But always with a sort of frantic gaze set on bedtime. The to-do list was a means to an end. Must do all the things so I can make it to bedtime.
What if the laundry got left in the basket and waited for tomorrow? What if I let the kids help with dinner instead of shooing them away constantly, making space for them even if it means everything takes 3 times as long?
What if I weren’t trying to do 18 other things while helping with homework? What if my phone went in a drawer and I shut my laptop? What if I said yes more? Yes, you can get out the paint. Yes, you can make a giant fort. Yes, we can go for a walk.
I’m not saying I’m solely responsible for the witching hour, here. But maybe I contribute to it more than I’m willing to admit. And maybe, just maybe, I could lead by example in calming down a little bit.
Perhaps you’ve read those oft quoted words from Deuteronomy:
These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
And maybe, like me, you read it and think, “I’VE GOT TO TEACH THESE KIDS MORE.” However, I wonder if the implication here is more that we’re always making room for the teaching to happen. And in order for that to be true, we can’t just be frantically trying to accomplish a to-do list all the time.
If we’re doing homework and there’s a moment to observe something cool about God: stop, be patient, teach. If I’m cooking dinner and a fight breaks out: stop, dinner can wait, teach. If I’m trying to get things done and I’m asked to join in the game: stop, have fun, teach.
This sounds simple, but it’s oh, so hard in the moment. May we parents be present to our kids as the Spirit leads us, and be willing to set the distractions aside. Maybe the witching hour won’t be so terrible after all.