It’s no secret that we are living in deeply unsettling times, for a number of reasons. There is no shortage of things to worry about. If you’re anything like me, then even if one moment is fun, you’re worrying about a different moment.
At the same time, wherever there are children, there is no shortage of joy. I walked into Kate’s music class last week and was struck by the joyful energy in the room. I ate lunch with a Unit cohort recently and watched them bask in the sunshine and each other’s company. Never before had lounging in the parking spaces by Spinelli been so exciting! As a new parent to a 1 year old, I spend my weekends at playgrounds, and the glee is abundant. Most children remain joyful, despite these unsettling times. Of course they are not immune to the world’s worries, but I am consistently struck by their ability to remain in the present moment. Is there a way to preserve this capacity for remaining in the moment, so that it doesn’t have to be re-learned 20 years later under the name of mindfulness or through decades of therapy? How do we get the childhood version of mindful to seamlessly mature into the adult version?
I don’t know. But I can tell you one thing that definitely does not help: projecting our adult worries onto our children. There’s nothing that pulls them out of the joy of a moment faster than an adult worry! As I told a Fayerweather parent recently, I was internally panicking as my 1 year old ran around the kitchen with a banana. I thought to myself “she’s never going to learn to sit down to eat! I’m going to have a child with no table manners, and other parents won’t want to have her over! What have I done?!” I robbed both of us of a perfectly lovely moment when I made her sit down to finish her banana! And to what end? It wasn’t safety that crossed my mind, but rather future worries about hypothetical things that were only tangentially related to the present moment. What a waste!
In this historical and cultural moment, it can be hard to parse out in real time what is worth worrying about, no question. That being said, I read a lot this summer about the return to school being potentially traumatic for children because their classroom would look different, or because kids might get shamed for not physically distancing, or because they wouldn’t understand their teachers without being able to see their whole faces. The truth is I see abundant joy in school each day! The discrepancy between the adult projection of our own fears and the kid reality is vast in this moment we’re living through. I will do my best to slow down and take more cues from our students, as they are providing a free mindfulness class for anyone who will watch them.
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