Despite the grey sky, I have been humming this song all day….
Last Monday we have been as every Monday at the Parent and Child group that normally gathers at the Waldorf School of South West London. The group is called Bluebells and it is the most calming environment I have been with my little one since we started to go to these types of groups. And I can say with some degree of certainty, we have been around playgroups, parent and child group, baby’s cafes and the sort for quite a while now and so far, Bluebells is the only one where my son and I feel at ease.
And because we both feel at ease he can do his thing in a complete safe environment whilst I can do my thing – normally parents would do some craft, related to the season we are in – whilst chatting and listening to what any other mum (or dad) has to say or comment. Not to mention the amazing Jo, who is inspiring to say the least and who is always with the right answer or the most suited observation.
And today was one of those days where Jo told something ever so true that it was like one of those things that are very obvious in front of your nose and you cannot see it – do you know what I mean?
What happened was that my little dear son was – as usual I dare say – throwing things away left right and centre without any care of what was to the left to the right or to the centre; not to mention when he got to throw things aiming at the “nearest target” call it another child, a wall or the table. You name it, it was one of those days where no one nor anything was safe.
I was not at ease anymore fearing where the next woodblock would end, and nothing seem to distract my son from this activity; today what was meant to be a safe, calm, relaxed environment was a hazardous one at the hands of my son.
It is worth to mention that this throwing things activity started quite awhile ago but these last two weeks was in full force. I remember commenting it to Jo and asking for her best opinion and she suggested to do something productive i.e. throw it inside a basket, a box, like a game to aim at something. I did try it without any results. If anything it exacerbated his little passion. And today he was very passionate about it.
No need to mention that at my son’s age (2 years and a half) he does not quite yet understand the concept of hurting someone or damage something. And it will be a while until he starts to grasp this notion. But in my head the fear of him doing any harm to another child was growing and to be honest I could not picture any likely scenario of how things could turn. At the end of the day anything material that gets broken can be fixed or substituted; a child with an injury – and the anger of the parent – cannot be fixed with an infinite amount of apologies or arnica.
When the morning session finished and we were getting ready to go back home, I did ask Jo if she could give me an idea of what to do when my son got into those frenzied outbursts of throwing everything around, and I was concerned; I did tell her I was not ready to face an upset parent and child in the near future.
The answer was quite simple. She said to me, “do you know what one of the principles with Zen is?” “A little” I replied. “Well, Zen says to live in the present and to resolve the present”. “Children are like little Zen masters, they live in the present, without a care in the world about tomorrow, or about what happened yesterday”.
I could only smile and look at my little “Zen master” who was about to throw another wood block towards the door. “Think about it” said Jo “the best resolution is for the now, for the present. No point on trying to solve something that may or may not happen tomorrow or in five years time”. We said our goodbyes and made our way home.
And whilst I write this I can’t stop thinking on this little conversation we had. The more I think about it the more I agree. To resolve the situation in the present surely will be settling some ground for a similar situation in the future…and then I have to stop myself in my tracks because again I’m thinking in the future instead of the “today”.
It is challenging to think or even toy with the idea of going into this line of thought. Although on reflection I always act and live in the present, it is *very* true that I pay too much attention on what to resolve now so it won’t be a problem in the future – and sometimes the future could be in two days time – instead on focusing the present.
True, it is necessary to set some foundations but as well it is necessary to live the moment and it is something I need to learn. I suppose, it is time to follow the little Zen Master.
Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights,
before the dark hour of reason grows.
It is nearly a month that I arrived home and there is this episode that is still very vivid on my mind and I think it will take years to shift, because it was like a tragic comedy of parenthood.
I was at the playground in a sunny afternoon I would say a perfect afternoon not too hot, not too windy, watching my little one explore his surroundings and wondering what was he thinking or imagining in that head of his.
As my son approached me with a stick in one hand and some leaves in the other with his sandals covered in mud, a football came straight our way. It did not touch me or my son but it did scare us because it was unexpected. My son was delighted with this sudden apparition of a ball and as you can imagine I looked immediately for the owner.
Yes, you imagined well, the owner was a young boy of about 8 or 9 years old, in a sleeveless t-shirt, shorts and trainers.
– “I’m sorry” he muttered
-“No worries “I replied.
The boy noticed my son’s interest on the ball, so he kicked the ball towards him, a bit rough so I explained to the boy to do so a bit more gently so my son could play without getting hurt. So he did, and for 5 minutes both of them were enjoying the play. But the sleeveless t-shirt boy soon got bored of it and in a very straight forward way he went to kick his ball away from my little one.
My son saw himself without the ball and without someone to play with and the disappointment in his face was such it broke my heart. Quite promptly his football came out of the bag underneath the pushchair and I started to play with him and peace was restored until the next twig or leave would distract him (as it normally happens).
Whilst my son was running around I was observing this young boy – the sleeveless t-shirt one – who was somehow trying to play by himself but obviously was quite bored and in complete truth he did not know what to do with himself.
He was kicking the football up, to the sides, towards the bushes, towards the road and … towards a gentleman who was sitting on a bench embedded on his phone screen and typing like there was no tomorrow who I soon gathered was the father of the sleeveless t-shirt boy.
As the boy carried on kicking the ball towards his father, his father continued to ignore him, to the point that left me wondering why the father brought the child to the playground in the first place. Perhaps he thought he was going to get some time off to do whatever he was doing on the phone whilst the child was in the playground playing.
But the child did not know how to play on his own, and looking around there were no more children his age to play with him and to play with my little one proved somehow boring for him (not for my son!). As a fact, although that afternoon was ideal to be out in the park playing and enjoying the sun, the playground was somehow empty.
So, this boy continued to kick the football towards his father, his father continued to ignore him and occasionally shout at him to leave him alone. The boy continued kicking the ball around until the ball got stuck up high on top of a vine.
– “Dad” I heard him calling “the ball”
– “What have you done now?” “Can’t you see I’m busy?” “Do you really have to be such a nuisance?”
– “It is not my fault. The ball went up there on its own”
– “Nothing happens just like that”
– “Dad, get it down”
– “Why should I?”
– “Dad get it for me”
At this point I could see the father quite angry and his face was red, about to burst. The father tried to get the ball down, and in the end the boy climbed up the vine, shook some branches and the ball finally fell on the ground again.
– “Don’t do it again” Said the father getting back to the bench, with the phone in his hand. “As you cannot play, we are going to get a burger”.
– “But dad” said the sleeveless t-shirt boy “You said you were going to play with me”
-“C’mon, get in the car. We are going to get a burger”.
So the boy got into the car, the father put his phone aside and they drove away. I carried on playing with my son, who was happily getting very dirty with mud.
No need to say the blunt answer from the boy struck me as to how children are very honest when it comes to promises and how we, adults try to deceive them time and again. Perhaps the father did have the intention but something overcame the intention and he had to postpone the play and get on his phone.
But then again, wouldn’t it be better to tell the truth to the child instead to forge expectations?
Oh well, lessons to be learnt.