Good morning and welcome to your sixty-fifth meditation. Do you have kids in your life? You should. Don’t worry, this podcast is not going to be like those parents who insist that you owe them a grandchild, or those friends whose sanctimoniousness about their parenthood is alone enough to turn you off of ever wanting kids yourself. This podcast is not about parenting at all. It is simply about what can be gained from spending time with kids, whether as a parent, an aunt or an uncle, a babysitting neighbour, a teacher, a community leader, a grandparent, etc. So what can be gained by hanging out with these little humans? A lot. Too much, in fact, to cover here. But here’s a small list:
Spending time with kids reminds us of our own childhood and what it was like to be one. This is so important because, as we grow older our minds tend to narrow. Through experience we convince ourselves that we know a few things, and part of that is knowing what to avoid. We become “realistic”. We arrive at ideas of what we are capable of and what we are not. We become more set in our likes and dislikes. We become proud and awkward and embarrassed in ways that kids seldom are. We have difficulty changing our opinions. We learn to direct and focus our attention in ways that blot out that which we’re not engaging with. By attending to one thing, we miss everything. Maybe it’s the sound of a distant airplane in the sky, or the birds in a nearby tree, or the colour of the stray thread on the floor, or the pattern of the crack in the wall, or the feel of the rug on the soles of your feet. But children notice these things. They teach us a different kind of attention… if we let them. Children experiment. They try and fail and try again, or they change the rules of the game. They take risks and are unembarrassed by their mistakes. They are silly and they laugh and they play.
Of course, we can’t all just become like children. The world needs responsible adults. Children need responsible adults so that they can feel safe and secure and cared for so that they can be free to be their kid-selves. But there is no doubt that we can learn a lot from them. We can learn to be more open, to cast the net of our attention more widely, we can learn to be more imaginative, and to look at things from different angles. We can learn to let our egos relax, to stress less – and be less stressed by – goal-oriented thinking and productivity. We can learn to enjoy the process of doing without any need for specific outcomes. We can learn to play. Scratch that. We can remember how to play. Because we all had this knowledge once, and all still do inside us somewhere to varying degrees. We may just need a little help from the younger generation locating it.So, if you have the opportunity, hang out with kids. Observe them. Pay attention to them. We owe it to them to teach them what we think we know, but we also owe it to ourselves to let them teach us what they know. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.