We are constantly hearing older generations referring to the adage ‘in my day’ followed by a story about how those old days were ultimately far better in every way to the present day. It is important to recognise that humans as a species are continually evolving and with each new generation comes change. However it is equally important to consider some aspects of ‘in my day’ narratives that may still have significant relevance to the current day. One of which is the ever increasing pace of our current lifestyles and the direct contrast this has with the lifestyles of yesteryear.
As a parent, it is all too easy to become consumed with the current day pace of life. As media bombards us with what it means to be a parent of modern children there is an undeniable pressure to ‘keep up’ in order to feel we are doing a good job in raising our children. This ‘keeping up’ often includes having the latest toys, technologies and equipment for our children to engage with. It also includes the variety of extra-curricular activities we must involve our children in so that they are ‘socialised’ as well as extended in hobbies that may offer then a career pathway in the future. Before we know it, our children are kept busy throughout the week being entertained by their involvement in after school classes and sports. And when they are not being kept busy, they have the latest gadgets to interact with designed to entertain and ‘educate’. There would appear to be very little downtime for children, should we choose this pace of life.
The side effect of choosing this pace of life for our children is the impact it has on our ability to be responsive to our children’s individual needs. We are so busy getting children from activity to activity, or happy in the knowledge that our children are preoccupied with their toys that we turn our attention to our own fast paced lifestyles, grateful we have moments to get things done. And yet, we are able to change this if we so choose to. We can resist the urge to live at such a pace. We can resist the urge to ‘keep up’. We can choose to slow down and in turn, slow our children’s lifestyles down so that they have time to experience childhood in its purity.
We have consciously chosen to slow the pace down in our household. We limit our daughter to one or two after school activities, resulting in two afternoons a week where she is in engaged in social and sporting activities. We actively monitor the workload of our teenager, ensuring that while he is committed to his sporting interests, he equally has time to meet his study workload as well as have the downtime needed to keep up with his rapid rates of growth.
Because of our choice to resist the urge to ‘keep up’ and meet the idealistic image of the ‘modern parent’, we have found we have many moments throughout our days to delight in our children, allowing them to simply ‘be’. To be in themselves and ‘be’ in the moment. An example of this occurred for me the other day. I had the time to sit and simply observe my youngest in his play. We travelled down to the bottom of the property and into ‘The Forest’. Initially I was included in his game, but the more involved he became, the less I was needed. I was able to sit and simply watch him as he narrated his game of being a man called in to fix the ‘problem’. I interacted when required, but for the most part he was utterly entrenched in his world of play. His game did not involve any modern toys. The only resource he utilised in the environment was a wooden ladder, with the rest of his ‘props’ simply being invented by imagination.
It was a privilege for me to be able to sit and observe. As a parent and a teacher, we can often be swept up in the modern pace that we miss many opportunities to simply ‘be’ with our children. We run the risk of missing out on noticing these precious moments with our children. And if we succumb to the expectation that to be a good parent we must have our children timetabled to be entertained, we will have children lacking in the ability to simply ‘be’ with themselves. My challenge to the modern parent is to disconnect from these expectations. To find time in the day to sit and observe. To be available to your children. To not be afraid to leave the time unscheduled and to see what happens next. You may be pleasantly surprised with what your children may come up with themselves.