The space to do nothing. The space to be bored. The space to learn about yourself and the world without time lines, marketing agendas, or too much outside influence. The space to be on your own or with others without a lot to do. The space to get comfortable with yourself, by yourself, without the need for externals to make you OK. The space to feel. The space to just be. As is.
This is one face of childhood. And it is life-giving in its offerings of inner resourcefulness, ease within your own skin, the ability to know your own mind, the capacity to be with the up and down rhythms of Life, and so much more.
This is not an easy thing to find in a world that is suspicious and intolerant of nothing to do. Or having too much time on your hands. Or allowing for quiet. Or for welcoming stillness and solitude. Not to mention the epidemic of fear around feeling. Yet, when I look back and remember the unfounded concerns that I had that my children were not scheduled into enough things, or were missing out because they were not on Facebook, or learning about the world through the computer, I would tell that young mama, and all the ones like her, to rest easy. Why? Because this older and more seasoned mother knows some things as reflected by the way her young adult children are moving through the world now. The ways that they can keep their own company and be with life without trying to get out of it. The ways that they do not make themselves so busy that they cannot feel what they are feeling, or know what they are knowing.
In a week where I read that almost half of our children now will suffer from a mood disorder, a behavioral problem, or substance abuse, I am struck by the contradiction in this statistic with the conversation I had with one of my own children currently in the midst of a difficult romantic break-up. In our conversation, they spoke over and over again of letting themselves be with the process, giving themselves time, letting the hurt be there while knowing simultaneously that some day it would end. In sum, an awareness of, and an ability to be with, what is difficult. Space created to be with and feel what is there without looking for an escape route.
We live in a time when our children never have to feel anything they do not want to, nor develop a skill set to be with those very same unwanted feelings. In a time where because of the seemingly infinite ways of the modern world to keep them busy, entertained, distracted and checked out, they never get the experience of spaciousness in childhood. And it shows.
It shows in how they are more interested in what is coming across a screen than what is right in front of them. It shows in all of their fears and in their inability to be with themselves.Through the devices, there are far too many ways for our children to numb out and distract themselves when they hurt, bored, lonely, sad, angry, or disappointed. There are far too many avenues to never have to feel, or be alone, or to come up against yourself in any kind of a meaningful way.
Does it strike you at all that in a time of increased exposure to screens and all that that opens our children to, we have increasing levels of mood disorders, addiction, and behavioral problems? And while we can never point the finger at any one thing, do you see the possibility of a connection here?
What do you know to be true around the ways that the screens occupy, medicate, distract, and distort the beauty, necessity, and innocence of childhood itself?
As parents, if we can give our children a foundation of spaciousness, allowing for their childhood life to organically reveal and resolve itself, we give them the gift of knowing not only that feelings come and go, but that they have the capacity to meet what comes their way. This will never be possible in a world where keeping your children busy, over-scheduled, and glued to a screen is often seen as the best way to prepare them for life.