Dear Abby: I would like to respond to "Solitary Woman in Ottawa, Canada" (March 5), the expectant mom who asked how she could raise her child to enjoy "periods of quiet, reflective fun by himself."
I have two children, ages 7 and 1. Like "Solitary," I also enjoy time to myself, whether reading, writing or going for a hike.
When my son was born, I felt it was important to give him confidence and the ability to be self-sufficient. Therefore, we have him help us with chores like grocery shopping and encourage him to make healthy, responsible choices. When he was 2 and stopped taking naps, we told him he had to have "quiet time" and that reading to himself was one of the options.
As a result, our son is self-motivated, an avid reader and writer, and has an intellectual curiosity most adults don't have. He is teaching himself cursive writing and is interested in learning a foreign language.
We live in the Colorado Rockies, and getting rid of our TV set was one of the best things our family has ever done. Instead of tuning each other out, we enjoy conversation, creating and sharing our days together. I have never been happier as a father or husband.
I am concerned for people who are afraid of silence. I suspect it's a sign of sensory bombardment. The human mind needs moments of clarity brought on by reflection. – Dad Who Gets It
Dear Dad: Thank you for your letter. I received many thoughtful comments from people who identify strongly with "Solitary's" point of view:
Dear Abby: Your advice to "Solitary Woman" was good, but did not start soon enough. She should provide stimulating crib and playpen toys to teach her son at an early age that he can control some aspects of his environment. Having this ability is the key to enjoying solitude.
When my daughter was 7 weeks old, I attached a mobile fashioned from a white wire coat hanger and rainbow-hued origami cranes to her bassinet. I wiggled it and watched her smile at the moving colored birds. When the movement stopped, she became frustrated and began to whimper and kick and flail her arms. The paper birds moved again. She lay still and watched them. When they stopped the second time, she didn't whimper but just moved herself in the bassinet. She had learned she could control her environment.
As a toddler she could leave her playmates and pursue solitary activities in the quiet of her own room. I am convinced that her bassinet experience was the basis for learning to be happy by herself and with herself. – Smart Mama in El Cajon, Calif.
Dear Abby: According to a journalist and mother who published a book on the topic, when an infant cries, wait a few minutes and listen before reaching out. This gives the baby time to learn how he feels with himself, and to deal with it emotionally. After five minutes or so, if the baby has a real need, then you can reach for him. Doing it too quickly prevents this crucial process of learning to be with oneself. – Another Solitary Canadian
Dear Abby: As a teacher (now retired), I was always interested in personality types and how they affect learning and interaction with others. One way of dividing personality types is into introverts and extroverts. Introverts get their energy from quiet time alone; extroverts get energy from being with other people and sensory activities.
This is an inborn trait that cannot really be taught, and there are varying degrees of the introvert/extrovert characteristic along a continuum. Wise parents will learn their child's personality traits and tailor their parenting to help him/her have the best learning situations possible. – Mary in Texas
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.