One of the most rewarding parts of parenting is that moment when you see your child really GET a new thing. It can be small such as the moment the butterfly alights on their arm when they can take a deep breath and know to be still. It can be big like realizing how much power their words can have when they express true gratitude for something. It’s that awareness of what can be, what they can accomplish, sometimes without even doing more than just being aware of their impact on others that is so very powerful.
How do you teach that? How do you help a child learn that sometimes being and letting others be, and just being aware of all of that is actually a beautiful experience. The best way to teach this is to do it yourself; you know, there’s a lot of power in mimicry. When was the last time you put aside your busyness to just be, and to really focus on what was around you as you enjoyed your stillness? Or to be fully aware of how what you do or say impacts others?
I’m a bit of a hypocrite, actually. Here I am telling you to be mindful, to deliberately take the time to just be and I am also admitting that rather than following my own advice, I often feel as though my cup (and plate, and every proverbial utensil) runneth over. I feel like I must go go go because there isn’t enough time for x, y and/or z. So still, even with that, I do try my best to take the time, as often as I can to just be. To stop and focus on what’s around me, and enjoy the silence, or the noise or whatever is around. Being deliberately aware of what is or is not around can help one to develop their skills for empathy, and for looking outside one’s own self. Being aware of your impact on others or seeing how well things flow around you brings awareness of your space and the space of others, reducing the focus on self. By focusing less on our own self, we start realizing that just like we are responsible for our own self and our own actions, so are others; our own self-efficacy goes hand-in-hand with that of others’. This is a powerful concept to own.
My favorite time to be aware is outside in our little garden. We have a hodgepodge of things growing, mostly green leafy edible things, and tomato plants. I am inevitably awed that these tomato plants still bear fruit although they are undoubtedly the driest, gangliest looking things. I enjoy being able to pick the greens, knowing that my family is going to enjoy these for dinner in a few hours. I love that my kids love to come and help. Oh sure, if I did it myself, it’d be that little piece of peace I crave, but sharing it with them helps them to learn more about nature and how to nurture that which will in turn feed us. They love to water the plants, and inevitably turn to find all sorts of different bugs. They really get what I am talking about when I talk about the wonder of the garden. They are involved from compost to seed to seedling to salad bowl. It’s an amazing lesson for them. Showing them to be more mindful of what they eat helps them to think about what else they are putting into their body. We’ve had many conversations about ingredient lists and processes food goes through before it sits on the shelf. They understand that less is more when it comes to fruits and veggies and other foods, and often surprise me with their intuitive food selections. They know because they’ve learned this from us.
It can be easier to leave this sort of lesson up to others. Oh sure, you think: Their teacher will give them some lessons on mindfulness. And while this may be true, incorporating more mindfulness in your own life is a good thing: being more purposefully focused in your life, and learning how to accept without judgment plays a role in well-being and satisfaction. Mindfulness plays a key role in happiness, and who doesn’t want to be more happy, right?