Being in the moment – we do it so naturally as children, but the more we grow up the more we struggle with it.
In fact, perhaps that’s the definition of growing up. We glorify being busy, going without sleep, working late at the office, hustle, progression, getting ahead…
And it starts early. Our children are being relentlessly pushed through that growing up process, pulled from the moments they’d like to spend longer in because there’s always a next thing to do. To work towards. To tick off. The next subject, project, worksheet, group activity, lesson, bell, assembly, class, test, homework assignment…all week, every week.
Maybe they go on the occasional holiday and slow down, but it’s short-lived – by the time they’ve actually shaken off the busy and remembered how to be still the break’s over and they’re back on the conveyor belt.
Our children have no choice in the matter, either. The model we’ve built for them – where attendance is required by law, in most places – is based entirely on the concept of a start, a finish, and continual progression against rising benchmarks in between. They can’t choose to slow down, let alone stop. Even a gap year for an 18-year-old leaving high school is scrutinised. Surely they have the next thing to get on with?
Being rushed is not a state any child I’ve ever met has flourished in. Quite the opposite, actually – they find it stressful and unsettling. But somehow we’ve become a world of people who live like we’re in a race. With those around us, with ourselves, with the standards we’re supposed to be ahead of by now, all pushing toward finish lines built from abstract concepts like ‘success’.
The thing is, races have more losers than winners. That’s just the way they work. And there aren’t many races where you’re encouraged to slow down and really take in what’s around you.
We’re spending our entire lives running past everything that is good. Giving our children permission to live slowly, intentionally…I don’t think there’s any greater gift.