I recently shared a lovely Saturday morning with my eldest son, Oliver, who is nine, and I thought you’d enjoy hearing some of our dialogue. There was a little bit of mindfulness magic in the air, which was good for both of us. Often, it’s the ordinary moments we share that matter the most. I think everyday spirituality is about having an awareness of the smaller things, that in time can amount to mean a lot, especially to our kids.
“When are Dad and Daniel going to be home?” Oliver asked me, sloth-like, from a comfortable wicker chair.
“Not for a little while yet,” I said, sitting next to him, on another wicker chair, looking out on our blooming garden.
I’d just watched my son play an energised game of totem tennis on the back lawn, whilst eating my breakfast. It had me reflecting on my totem tennis-playing antics as a child, and how I always lost the game to my big sister. I’d been admiring my son’s athleticism: He’s got a good swing on him … may well be a champion tennis player in the making!
“I’m bored,” he protested.
“There’s nothing to be bored about,” I looked at him, wondering where the sudden boredom had sprouted from. “You have a wonderful imagination – use it!” Of course, boredom is a state-of-mind – a lazy state of mind. I’m sure he thought I sounded rather dull, but I have little sympathy for children who bemoan boredom, when they have a playroom full of games, Lego, books, and toys, which my son has, yet never plays with anymore.
What I knew for sure was that he’d rather be on his device playing Minecraft or Clash of Clans – but he’s not allowed to, not until his brother gets back from basketball training. Like many other parents these days, I worry that too much time spent on electronics is going to shrink his brain to pea size and sap it of initiative and creativity. “I, for one, am thoroughly enjoying the peace and quiet,” I said, smiling at him. My son just looked at me, unmoved. What do old mums know, anyway?
“Let’s play the ‘Quiet Game’,” I enthused – what a marvellous idea! I could tell Oliver was less impressed. “It’s different to the ‘Silent Game’,” I assured him. My husband and I like to play the Silent Game in the car when our kids are annoying us: “Let’s see who can be the quietest for the longest time.” Invariably, the silence only lasts two minutes, tops, until one of our kids breaks it, to elaborate on the rules of the game. Then there are numerous retrials, which all fail quicker than the time before. It allows for about ten minutes of relative peace in the car – which is something quite valuable.
“Let’s go quiet,” I suggested, “Listen … what do you hear?”
“Nothing …” Oliver blurted, with a ‘Mum’s being so dull’ tone.
“Listen more carefully,” I prompted him. “I can hear Harry (our dog) cleaning his paw.” We looked down to see our happy mass of sandy perm chewing at his paws.
“I can hear a child’s voice,” Oliver finally perked up.
“Yes, I hear it too.” I agreed. “I can hear a bird.”
“I can hear the breeze,” he replied quickly.
“I can hear traffic off in the distance,” I said, playing along.
“Oh, yes, I do too,” he agreed, enthusiastically, “and now there’s a fly buzzing by!”
“I hear you moving your feet over the pavement,” I said, with my eyes closed.
“I hear a different kind of bird,” he said. “Actually, there are lots of different sounding birds about, in the trees.” So it went along like a game of totem tennis – back and forth – a simple game of backyard mindfulness.
“Can you see, that there is something to the nothingness, after all?” I asked. “You just need to go quiet sometimes to notice it. And that’s actually when you really hear.”
“I can hear you speaking,” he smiled at me, cheekily.
“Life can get really noisy and we need to go quiet sometimes to hear the voice inside of us speak.”
“The voice in my head?” he asked.
“Kind of, but it’s a voice even beyond that,” I explained. “It’s your spiritual voice, something you’ll recognise more, the more times you go quietly.”
“Is my spiritual voice my self-conscious?” he queried.
“Where did you hear that word from?” I asked, surprised.
“One of my tv shows,” he said, with a shrug.
“Kind of, but the word is … ”
“Oh, I can hear a car door closing!” my son leapt from his seat, elated, and he was off like a rocket, through the back door, and in the house, before I could say the word: “… consciousness.” I sat back in the sunshine and smiled to myself, feeling happy that we had some time together, noticing the smaller things.
Was that a little bit fun? Surely not as rocking as Minecraft, but meaningful still. Do you spend time with a child, or children, getting them to notice the smaller, quieter things in life? Perhaps they have a special way of directing your awareness to what is before you. I’d love to know how!