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We are so often told to go big, be bold, live larger, dream higher, be extraordinary… And that to be anything else is to be selling ourselves short. So as we strive to break free of ordinariness we unconsciously place this same pressure on our children by heaping on praise, heaping on stuff and heaping on commitments in a well-intentioned effort to create an optimal environment- one that is extraordinary: extraordinarily stimulating and extraordinarily scheduled. What we are unintentionally doing is creating a generation of children who depend fundamentally on the constant supply of attention, bigger and better possessions and many and diverse activities leaving them exhausted and unable to really tap into the simple pleasures of their childhood where days stretch out for what feels like eternity and they get to relish in the ordinary for just a moment in time.
Where is the time in this over-scheduled, over-stimulated space for a child to be a child anymore? Where is the time for imaginary friends, forts under trees and make-believe cloud animals? Where is the time to just be ordinary and find the pure, exhilarating magic in that?
There is a pressing case for a return to childhood- children will have enough time being adults one day. What we need now is a return to slow days and sandy toes where life’s lessons are shared in the tides, in the seasons and in the beauty that we so often ignore but which still blooms for us if we would care to Stop! and take notice.
So how do we instill in children a reverence for the ordinary in a world chasing the extraordinary? How do we keep them connected in a society that is hell bent on isolation behind high wall and beeping screens? How do we get them to slow down and savour moments in a time that is obsessed with being busy? How do we get them to be human beings rather than human doings?
The trick is WE don’t. All we do is let go, step back from the over-scheduling and over-committing and give them the time and space to discover the ordinary themselves with a little bit of help from mother nature of course!
Children need the outdoors more than ever as a release from everyday pressures and pent up energy. Immerse your children in nature as much as you can, get them to tend a veggie patch, build a fairy garden or feed the birds. Get them to know and care for the beautiful creatures we share this planet with. Stop! Let the massive responsibility they have in preserving this beauty really sink in. In the age of selfies we desperately need a generation to stand up in selflessness for something larger than just themselves…
Keep a sketch pad at hand so that they can detail Mr Robin who pops out shyly from the undergrowth to say hello…Stop! Notice his colours, the way he tips his head in coy greeting. In the age of isolation, we desperately need a generation to know that we are all connected, every living creature, and that we are all in this crazy beautiful life together.
Allow them to sow seeds and watch with squeals as they grow. Stop! Talk to the seeds because we all know they grow better when they’ve had a good talking to;-) In the age of instant gratification, we desperately need a generation to know that good things take time and the best are always worth the wait.
Camp, even if it’s just in the back garden- under a sheet- and look for shooting stars which make you feel that there is a whole lot of world out there and stretches the imagination to far off galaxies and distant horizons. Stop! Appreciate the fact that we are just a speck of dust in the greater scheme of things- the world does not revolve around us as much as we like to think it does, but in that we have a very unique destiny and purpose to fulfill. In the age of entitlement, we desperately need a generation to put others before themselves and approach life with a servant heart rather than one that is superior.
Listen to the mish-mash calls of the birds as they sing to each other “Go away!” shouts the Grey Loerie whilst the Hleka Bafazi cackles in retort. Stop! Let nature come alive in all its perfect imperfection. In the age of perfectionism, we desperately need a generation to get real, let go and know that the cacophony is often better than the chorus.
Gumboot dance in the rain. Stop! Breathe deeply of the damp earth and revere the life it brings. In the age of scarcity, we desperately need a generation to preserve and bring creative solutions to the table, even if these solutions entail impromptu rain-dancing!
Stop! Soak up the lessons that mother nature so freely gives in these ordinary moments…
The ordinary lesson of humbleness and patience. Nature teaches that there is a season and a perfect timing for everything. Learn to trust these seasons and don’t hurry/fight the process. Watch as Autumn ‘let’s go’, Winter ‘dies back’ and Spring and Summer burst forth anew- much less constrained by the overgrowth of the past.
The ordinary lesson of gentleness as they watch the drops of rain and the soft green shoots slowly- over the years- work their way through the concrete sidewalks and learn that softness and persistence will always win out over this hard world.
The ordinary lesson that not everything in life is fair and that there will be creepers in life who strangle the majestic forest canopies but they too make the forest beautiful.
The ordinary lesson of the importance of working together and sharing your part in the heavy lifting as you watch ants rally together and carry loads 50 times their body weight.
The ordinary lesson of taking risks and falling short (again and again) but getting up, dusting the dirt off your knees taking a deep breath and trying again. As with so many things in life.
Stop! Immerse your children in mother nature, let them drink in the fullness of the ordinary and let Her support you in teaching your children to live a simple and content life where moments are many and memories are woven with meaning. Let Her bring alive the ordinary, the extraordinary will take care of itself…
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