Purposefully letting alone
About two blocks from our new home is a park with a playground. I have found this place to be a comfort because it appeases everyone and allows for a nice break in between unpacking boxes. It has the smaller play structure for the two year old, semi-high enough monkey bars for the four year old and a large pole holding an extraordinary tall slide that the seven year old calls the extra long fireman pole.
Last week, there was a dad there with his two young children. It was earlier in the morning and the park was pretty quiet. He, you could tell, was working from home due to the frequent calls and conversations he was having with callers. His attention was divided between work and the children. His children were between the ages of mine and they all seemed to be playing together nicely.
I walked over to help the kids balance to maneuver through the stepping stones and he came rushing over while still on the phone and I signaled to him things were fine. He returned to his call and it was a nice organic play time with new friends.
After he finished his phone call he came up to me and thanked me for helping his children.
Then, he apologized.
"Sorry", he said, " They dressed themselves this morning."
The apology caught me off guard. I chuckled a bit and said, "Oh, it is ok." He smiled and we each headed back home to fix lunches.
His apology keep ringing in my head all day.
Why did he feel the need to apologize for his kids clothing?
This triggered my thinking about how many things I do for my children that they are capable of completing independently, but maybe I am not proud of that or I apologize for their results.
The Charlotte Mason quote came to my thoughts that describes parents as potential inhibitors to our children's learning when we do something a child can do on their own.
In volume 3 on page 27 & 28 in, School Education, Mason writes, "We ought to do so much for our children, and are able to do so much for them, that we begin to think everything rests with us and that we should never intermit for a moment our conscious action on the young minds and hearts about us. Our endeavours become fussy and restless. We are too much with our children, 'late and soon.' We try to dominate them too much, even when we fail to govern, and we are unable to perceive that wise and purposeful letting alone is the best part of education. But this form of error arises from a defect of our qualities. We may take heart. We have the qualities, and all that is wanted is adjustment; to this we must give our time and attention."
I can't help to think how much more mindful I could be with my children in allowing them to do things. To not be so "fussy" and "restless".
A few nights later after our park encounter, my four year old offered to wash the dishes and my seven year old offered to dry them. I was excited at their willingness to be helpful and work together as a team. But it took all my attention to not try and grab a plate and hurry them along or rewash a spot.
I made myself sit in the moment...literally. Smile, enjoy and savor their hearts of helpfulness. And oh boy, was it so worth it. Mason reminds us, "...we must give our time and attention." The boys were able to complete the task independently. This habit of purposefully letting go felt freeing and exciting.
It made me realize in small parts of my day I wasn't apologizing aloud like the dad at the park, but I was saying the same thing to my kids with my actions of wanting to do it for them or "do it better/faster/easier".
This summer I am focusing on giving my time and attention to allowing my children to do more things independently that I normally do for them....even if their outfit doesn't match, the spot stays on the cup or the sheets don't line up.
What will this require of me.....so so very much patience and the practice of being mindful. To be mindful especially of their personhood and journey through life that every encounter is an opportunity to learn, grow and flourish.
What area(s) can you let go of and exchange the fussy for the habit of wise and purposeful guidance?