Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Wizardry in the Witching Hour

The early evening before the kids go to sleep, affectionately and wine-gluggingly known amongst parents as the witching hour, can evolve into a time of great enjoyment as your children get older.

When your kids are small, early evening is a tricky time of day. You're tired, they're tired, the house is a mess, your paperwork pile is silently scolding you for severe neglect, and there is always laundry to do. You go through the routine of fruit, tidy up, bath-time, pjyamas on, story-time, persistent playing and messing about as you coax and steer and try to persuade your little loved ones to calm down, get into bed and go to sleep. It's not easy. It's quite normal for the little darlings to get up again, call out, cry, demand another story, start asking questions in the hope that you will stay in their room for longer, and so on and so on and so on, until it gets late and you run out of patience, start shouting and everybody starts crying. The 'witching hour' is sometimes a warm, milk-sippingly cosy, loving snuggle ... and sometimes it is absolutely awful.

Over the last few years, my children have grown out of being hard work at bedtime. Aged 13 and 14, they have gradually become more independent and usually get themselves ready for bed, read and go to sleep without much fuss. I still need to be physically and mentally present, to make sure they go to bed at a reasonable time and have put their phones in the kitchen ... I still pop in to have a little chat and say goodnight ... and I need to be sufficiently aware of what's happening so that if they stopped brushing their teeth or started going to sleep with the curtains open I would know about it. But on the whole, my involvement ends with "it's getting late, GO TO BED!"

So Mums and Dads of small children, take heart. In time, you will find time to do what you want to do in the early evening. Last night at 7pm I decided the ever-present pile of outstanding chores could wait until tomorrow, and I got out my sketch book and started painting. The artwork isn't that good, and I don't expect anyone outside of the family will ever see it, but I don't care. That's not important. What's important is that when I sit down with a pen or a pencil or a paintbrush in my hand, some kind of wizardry envelopes me and nourishes my spirit ... I can't explain it, but Steven Pressfield does a brilliant job of explaining it in his book The War of Art - Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.

Having struggled with the witching hour for many years, this feels like progress.


  1. You definitely get more time, as the kids get older, but, guess what, I now miss all that, as my daughter is now 200 miles away!

  2. My younger son (18) when he is home just announces, "I'm going to bed now." It sure is a lot easier, but I also miss the bedtime stories and cuddles.

  3. That is wonderful news. I am so pleased to hear you have taken out your brushes again. Painting for no other reason than it being a pleasure has so many advantages: the joy of it (yes, even through the hard work) remains uncontaminated; you can change artistic direction at whim with no thought at all about it's commercial viability and so you and your work stays fresh and vigorous.