A four year old child plopped himself down on a slope of the hill, arms tucked under his head, one leg nonchalantly crossed over the other, staring at the sky. Another child came over to see what he was doing.
“Cloud gazing” drawled the first. The second promptly dropped to the ground beside him and imitated the position, staring up at the sky. They lay there for a few minutes, until a third, much busier, boy joined them, again asking what they were doing.
Once again, the answer simply was “Cloud gazing.”
But this time, as he joined the others, the third child commented in a puzzled voice “But there are no clouds…”
“There will be.” said the first, gazing into the clear blue sky.
All three simply laid there, still and present, gazing into the cloudless sky, as their friends played games around them, until it was time to go in.
If you have spent any time with young children, you will be likely be completely familiar with the way that they can stay in the moment, focusing solely on whatever has caught their attention with all of their being. At times, it likely has been frustrating, as they stop to examine a slug creeping along a branch, or to smell a flower, or to jump joyously in a puddle, while you, aware of the time, and the things that need to be done, tell them one more time to hurry along.
With busy lives, and busy schedules, in a world that is often ruled by the clock, it isn’t always easy to simply stop and join a child in their state of wonder, but there is much that can be learned by doing so.
It is a sad reality that this sense of being present, of living in wonder, is discouraged from a young age. Rather than simply enjoying the moment, the way the clouds move, or the feel of raindrops on the face, we feel the need to hurry through our days. We take our children into that headlong rush, filling their days with activities and teaching. In trying to make sure that children are ready for the world, we turn everything into teachable moments, but perhaps don’t fully consider what we are really teaching. By immediately explaining the science behind every single thing they see wonder in, by introducing concepts and big words that seem to relegate each object or event into a category, we are teaching them that there is more importance in analysing and understanding rather than just observing and accepting.
Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with teaching concepts; on the contrary, it is important. But there is equal, perhaps greater, value in allowing exploration and observation in the moment, without interrupting. There is value in encouraging children to continue to see the wonder in the world, to not lose that ability to be present and still.
And beyond that, there is much we as adults can learn from not standing passively, or impatiently, by, but rather by joining our littles where they are. By leaving the pressures of all the things that you are rushing through, what comes next, and joining them in being present.
Cori Dusmann is a writer and educator living in Victoria, BC. She is a regular contributor to Quill and Quire Magazine, her pieces have also been published in the Globe and Mail, The National Post and the Vancouver Sun.