Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Stay on the Sidewalk – Play in the World

This morning I decided to start my day with a walking meditation. I’ve learned that if I take time to clear my mind, I am better able to set my intention for the day and ensure that I use my energy to attend to “my work in the world. As I walked this morning, my mind was in a flurry of activity. So, to “turn it off,” I decided to set my pace (and silence my racing thoughts) to the music on my iPod. This worked well! And as I bee-bopped down the street (to what I recall as a Simon and Garfunkel tune) I found myself barely missing a speeding car by inches as I stepped into the street, unaware of my surroundings. This made me think–if I’m going to turn off my mind, – I better stay on the sidewalk!

I can recall my parents directing me to “stay on the sidewalk” and “look both ways” when I crossed the street. The obvious was to keep me safe.  As I think about it, they gave me many other directions designed to protect me from harm and help me navigate the world. As parents and caregivers of children, it is our role to set these guidelines and boundaries for our children. But I do wonder, are there situations when expectations are too confining for our children?

When they are young, children genuinely share and express their inner and truest selves. Whether they are playful, curious or full of wonder – young children are freely themselves. As they grow, some of their traits are dampened or extinguished as children learn about what is acceptable or appropriate. The desire to be accepted by others may override the free expression of earlier child-like traits. In some cases these child-like traits can be adapted to new situations. For example, playfulness may be displayed through a sense of humor or curiosity may be displayed through a desire to try new things. The real harm comes when earlier traits are completely extinguished by children conforming to the expectations and desires of others.

The unique traits of children are what lead them to greatness. As parents, I believe it is our job to pay attention and support these traits. So as I remind children to “stay on the sidewalk,” I also encourage them to play in the world by bringing their truest and best selves to life.

– Carolyn Brinkmann

Photo courtesy of Nir Nussbaum

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