We hear all the time that children are like sponges: they learn through play, through observation, through trial and error. As we ease out of lockdown and begin to see people whom we haven’t seen for a few months, they notice all the changes in my little one and see her development as a huge leap. As a parent, I often feel the pressure of teaching my child; teaching right from wrong, teaching her to be safe, teaching her how to hold a knife and fork, teaching her how to count to ten, the list goes on and on.
At first glance toddlers may not seem to have it all together. They need help with lots of things, often whilst insisting that they can do it, “All by myself!!!”. They are not the most predictable of creatures, making going for a simple walk an activity that requires an ongoing risk assessment with every step. Who knows when they will see something that catches their eye, requiring them to stop dead with no notice and cause me to trip over them? But during a walk to deliver some shopping to a friend who was shielding, I realised that there is so much that my little tiny terror can teach me.
Don’t be so focussed on your destination that you miss the experience of the journey
During this particular walk I was so intent on simply getting there, that I became irritated with my little one. I regretted letting her out of the pushchair to walk, probably as I was undoing the straps! A 10-minute walk was soon stretched into at least 30 minutes.
Our route wasn't remotely scenic, it was along a main road and we walked on the footpath with a grass verge between us and the road. The grass needed a good cut and was full of weeds. However, as I urged her along, my toddler was having none of it. "There's so many beautiful things Mummy!". The beautiful things were, in fact, dandelions.
But she loved them and wanted to pick them all, “…as a special present for you Mummy.” (I should add that it felt like she did indeed pick them all and the palms of her hands ended up dyed yellow to prove it!).
She saw beauty in the circumstances she was in, the journey alone excited her and she had no real urgency to get to the destination.
I caught myself ready to chivvy her along, to remind her that the purpose was delivering the shopping, not enjoying the walk. But then I realised that maybe it was me who had the wrong priorities. What if I took the opportunity to slow down, to look at my surroundings with the same wonder and curiosity as a toddler?
As life gets busier again and I’m running between work, appointments and picking up children from childcare, I want to remind myself to take a moment to look around me and simply notice what else is going on. Who knows, I may discover hidden beauty there. Or I may see something that concerns me. But unless I take a moment to look around then I will never see. The same applies in all areas of my life. What if I am so focussed on ‘the next thing’ that I don’t allow myself to fully experience where I am right now? How would my stress levels change if I just stopped for a moment and took the chance to breathe, to look around me and within me and see what’s going on? Maybe, in the same way my daughter saw the beauty in dandelions, I might just see the ordinary things in my life in a very different way.
For help and support with any aspect of your mental health contact New Dawn Counselling centre to book an assessment appointment via our website or by email. New Dawn's assessments and counselling sessions are mostly done online at this time. A limited number of face to face sessions will become available from our centre in Beeston, Nottingham during September and October.