One of the great joys of being a parent for me is watching my child play. He is so utterly absorbed in what he is doing whether that is carefully transporting items from one room to another or mixing together plastic foods in his kitchen. He is totally absorbed in what he is doing, lost in the moment and in play.
For me, as an adult, some are the greatest moments of my week are when I feel that same way. You know the thing, when you are so absorbed in an activity that you look up at the clock and can’t believe that two hours have passed. I feel like that about sewing. There is some combination of the creativity of dreaming up an item of clothing and the physical work of cutting the fabric and running it through the machine that leads to this state for me. Psychologists call it ‘flow’ and it seems to be a major way of being for our little ones.
Children seem to exist in what psychologists have called ‘point mode’. There is little, if any worry about the future or consideration of the past in a young child. In fact in very young children there is no concept of past and future at all. If you have your own child you might remember those days of them looking up at you like they are soaking you up. You are everything to them in that moment, they are lost in your face and they are completely undivided. There is no past or future thoughts to distract them from where they are so they are just with you. How wonderful is that!
As children grow they move out of this point mode into the way we adults live, which is largely in our thoughts of the past or present, unless we are either very lucky or learn ways of drawing ourselves back to the present though practices like mindfulness. For young children psychologists believe that point mode is the main way of operating day to day.
Children are so attentive to the world because there is so much for them to learn. Everyday they are figuring out just what this world is that they have found themselves a part of. To do this successfully would, in our evolutionary past, been an important means of survival. I also wonder if this way of being leads to those really vivid memories of childhood. I don’t know about you but mine are very sensory. every summer in my childhood memories is hot and sunny with dry prickly grass under my bare legs. The days were long and free. I wonder if this way of being as a child means that I remember it so well. If my sponge like child mind is the reason I can still bring it to mind in all its sensory details.
As an adult I really want to live in the moment like this. I want to notice when something is beautiful rather than let it pass me by. I also want to get beyond the tendency to see everything is ordinary, acting like I’ve seen it all before, and instead take on the approach of a child and really explore. I want to see what really matters through really engaging with what is ordinary and with me everyday. I think that is where the real treasures are. I definitely want to play.
For me this all takes work, but for my little boy it is as effortless as breathing. For me right now it feels like my job is to give this part of him room. To step back and let him investigate without feeling the need to jump in and explain everything. It is definitely to slow down enough to let him explore in the first place. It is about seeking out new places for him, which needn’t be miles away but might simply be under a new rock in our back garden where all the creepy crawlies lives. I want to value his play time and frankly I want to play with him, even if it means suffering a few bowls of plastic food to the face!
So how about you? Have you noticed this way of interacting with the world in your child? Is it something you want to encourage in them and is it something you want for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash