Have you ever watched a child make their way across a room or open space? If you have, you've probably noticed that often, they don't charge from point A to point B with focus and determination. Instead, they start out, stop, play with or look at something interesting, keep going, sit down for a bit, keep going, stop to chat with a friend, maybe loop back, and so on, until they finally reach their intended destination.
Compare this to how we as "grown-ups" get from point A to point B; focused, charging ahead, blinders on to the "stuff" or people we pass on the way to our intended destination. Look out, here we come.
One way is not better than the other; or so I thought, until I recently spent a weekend on retreat at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck New York. My personal "agenda" for the weekend included a 2-day professional development seminar, yoga and tai chi classes, and then coming home.
Point A to point B.
Or so I thought. Something else happened instead. Shortly after arriving on campus, my soul started to rebel against the schedule I'd established for the weekend. I'm not sure if it was the peaceful atmosphere that saturated the campus, the trees and forests surrounding our cabins or the fact that suddenly I did not have anyone else's needs or schedule to accommodate — but I started to resist my plans. Community movie Saturday night? I tried and left. I just wasn't into it. Tai Chi? I got less from it than I thought I would.
What did I "do" instead? I wandered. I walked the paths, sat by streams, enjoyed the trees, watched shooting stars over the lake, listened to drumming from another workshop, and really didn't "do" anything at all. As I wandered, it struck me that I was behaving like a little kid- not on any clear "mission." Just wandering, taking it all in, stopping when something interested me, and often doubling back. Essentially, point "B" started to matter less than what I saw or encountered along the way.
I loved the weekend's professional development workshop, but I received a bigger gift that I planned on: A chance to rediscover a childish love of wandering. And through this, the discovery of a peaceful place within me: nothing to "do," no place to "go." Just an opportunity to stroll aimlessly, to hear the sounds around me, and re-discover the quiet voice within me.
Kids wander because they are interested in everything, eager to learn and don't want to miss anything. Adults don't wander because we think we've seen everything, and because we have schedules to keep, kids to raise and jobs to do.
But what if we can rediscover this art form? And what if spending time wandering with our children is the way to do this? As I learned, the benefits to this simple, non-activity are numerous. And if we let our children show us the way, the benefits are even more tangible. Give it a try it this weekend. Hop in the car- or take to a wooded trail, without any real plan, and see what happens. Stop when you see something that interests you. Walk when you want to. Sit when you want to. Listen to the sounds. Smell the smells.
Take your time.
Your children will bloom while spending this type of totally unstructured time with you- and will enjoy showing you what it's like to live in their world for a little bit. You may even realize that sometimes, the best thing to "do" with your children is absolutely nothing at all.
Johanna Corcoran is a Johnston resident, member of our Mom's Council, and founder of Familytopia.