Monday, May 21, 2012

Raising a mindful child.

If it’s one thing that I have an issue with, it’s parents who are oblivious to the world around them as their children are. And now that I’ve probably offended a few people, let me explain. I work in a retail environment, I have since I started working, and if it’s one thing I’ve had a lot of time to do it’s observe humanity and come to some conclusions that more than 10 years worth of retail experience have backed up and cemented. And oblivious parents drive me nuts.

Children are children, they are still not in full command of their brains, and therefore their awareness and attention span is fleeting at best. I do not expect a child to be able to stay on task, be very observant of the world around them, or to be able to draw detailed conclusions about the world around them based on small details, body language or environment. But I do expect fully grown and mature adults to be able to. What I see instead though are parents who are too busy looking at their cell phones to notice their child is pulling half the contents from the bottom shelf onto the floor, or parents who will do anything to shut their child up so they hand them distraction after distraction so that they can wander the aisles aimlessly shopping for nothing in particular. You name it, I’ve seen it. From parents who walk around the store talking on their cell phone with their very quiet child trailing a few feet behind, always keeping mum or dad in sight, to parents who act like their child is like a lost little puppy, and resent having them with them, and go out of their way to ignore them. I’ve seen parents pop soothers into mouths of children who just wanted to say something to them, and parents who growl something about children needing to be seen and not heard because they said hi to me while I was cashing their purchases out.

And quite frankly, it disgusts me. As a mother myself, and I think especially as a Wiccan mum, I feel like it’s my responsibility to teach my child about being aware of the world around them. I point little things out to my son all the time, things you wouldn’t think a toddler should or would notice, like small birds in the trees, or on the feeder, airplane lights in the night sky flashing and blinking, and the sound of rain on the roof of the car. And I know he notices, because he’s started to point those things out to me voluntarily and without me prompting him, and he even tries to imitate the sounds of the world around him, from the cat meowing to the dog next door barking, Andrew is an observant little guy.

He especially responds to music, sounds, and bright colors. It’s hard to take him shopping right now because he doesn’t want to just walk beside me holding my hand anymore, he wants to explore the world around him, mostly by touching and tasting. He “smells” flowers by sticking his tongue out and getting a good lick of them, and he loves to pull packages off the bottom shelves and look at them and turn them over. And he especially loves picking blades of grass or fluffy dandelion heads when we go for nature walks. He’s found feathers, picked up pretty stones, and pointed out birds flying overhead because he noticed their shadows moving across the ground. So when I see parents go out of their way to ignore their children in public, I know that they probably go very much out of their way to ignore them in their own home, and it pains me.

Children are naturally curious and at the toddler and young child age especially they explore their world very instinctually, which basically means touch, and sometimes taste. I believe that if children are that desperate to touch things in a store, that it means they don’t get to get outside or into other environments where they can freely touch and explore often enough. Nature walks, parks, and easy hiking trails and beaches or river banks are great places to let children utilize their natural curiosity, and as a bonus you can also use the opportunity to try to teach them about connecting to Mother Nature too. As Wiccans, I think it’s very important that we carry that mindfulness over into the rest of our children’s world too, teaching them to try to be aware of where other people are, for instance, so they don’t get in their way in the aisles of grocery stores, or teaching them what certain body language signals mean, and teaching them good shopping etiquette. But you can’t expect your kids to be well behaved unless they have an outlet for their curious nature. People wonder sometimes why they can’t get their kids to settle down, yet they don’t let them just be kids at any time either. I knew one girl who would literally lock her kids in their bedroom so she could get some “peace and quiet” and rarely took her boys outside. She hated the area she lived in, and she decided to take them out into as little as she could get away with it. Is it any wonder then that they were bursting at the seams to expend their excess energy and were practically climbing the walls they were so hyper?

So, take a few minutes and just let your kids explore each day. Rain, shine, unless the weather is torrential, it’s not going to hurt them. If anything it’ll teach them proper respect for the earth and how it works, and it will get their brains going and help them to learn. 

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