As was the case with every yoga class I had ever been to, my Sunday morning Vinyasa class ended with a resounding “Namaste” that reverberated throughout the room. I left feeling refreshed… centered… peaceful; characteristics that are intuitively hard to come by for someone like me.
Someone who is naturally high-anxiety and “intense” as my sister calls it. Though my type A personality has served me well in many situations, it has also been a nuisance in other areas of my life, which is exactly why I do yoga. “Namaste” is a traditional Indian greeting that means love and balance and I’m trying to get as much “namaste” as I can in my high-stress life.
Skip ahead to later that Sunday, and I’m at a kid’s birthday party with my son. It’s a party for a 4-year-old and there are roughly 20 kids and maybe 25 adults. Par for the course of most of these functions, the adults are standing around, mimosas in hand, discussing things like “Which schools are the best for my child?” and “Where did you get that fabulous dress?”
Meanwhile, the kids have free range over a plethora of expensive, hired entertainment including a human “Spiderman” that does aerobatics, a bouncy castle, an actual DJ, a relay racecourse, a trampoline, a pool, a balloon maker, and an abundance of random kids toys, haphazardly strewn all over the back patio, lawn, and house.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watch as my son (along with the rest of the band of children) jump from station to station – thing to thing – never fully enjoying one of the activities because there are 15 other shiny objects to captivate their attention.
As I’m watching the kids run around like cats with a laser pointer darting all over the place, I am also listing to a group of the mothers compare notes on what Disney trips they have planned, what sports they just enrolled their little ones in, what afterschool programs they have planned for them, and what other developmental courses they signed their kids up for including: violin lessons, swim lessons, tennis lesson, french lessons, and so forth.
I was exhausted just listening to these moms talk, let alone actually implementing all of these activities and it got me thinking about how I was raised and how it helped mold me into the person I am today.
My parents were no different than any of the parents at this particular party – and I can’t emphasize this enough – I am completely aware that both my parents and the parents at this birthday party have nothing but the best intentions for their children. They want to give them the world and that’s great in theory, but it doesn’t translate well in logistics. Here is why:
Kids (particularly really young kids at the height of their developmental stage) need to learn to be bored. They need to learn how to be alone, how to be comfortable without constant distraction and excitement. They need to figure out coping skills to handle “downtime” and they simply won’t learn those skills if we as parents are always trying to fix it for them.
If you leave a toddler in his room with no TV, toys, or something to excite/distract him, I PROMISE YOU they will a way to entertain themselves. In fact, not having stuff to constantly entertain them will actually teach them the ability to storytelling and use their imagination. It’ll teach them what to do when left to their own devices and that is an incredibly powerful skill-set to learn – being okay just being alone with oneself. It’s a skill I wish I had developed better at an earlier age.
You can’t override genetics and predisposition. Some kids are more inclined to be high-stress, high-anxiety, type-A personalities no matter how you raise them. But, if you stop trying so hard to make them happy all the time, then they’ll figure out ways to make themselves happy and at peace with being alone and bored. And that’s one of the most powerful gifts you can give a child, so that they aren’t one day sitting in a yoga class, saying namaste, trying to learn inner peace later on in life.