A Real Superpower



Originally posted 2016

We were holidaying in Queenscliff recently and the opportunity came up for me to have 1 hour to myself – my youngest took himself off to bed for a midday nap. Ahhhh peace, it must have been the 1-hour of running along the beach and the 1.5 hours of up hill scooting we had done in the morning. No, I really didn’t mean to exhaust him, honest……

During this nap time, my eldest (7 years old), was complaining he was bored…. And I tried to explain to him that being bored was OK and really, part of life. That he should practice being bored well as, when he is an adult there will be large chunks of his life that are boring but necessary, like putting petrol in the car, lining up at the bank and paying bills online.

Needless to say, he wasn’t really interested in my philosophy at that point and he snapped “its OK for you, you have that super power”….which one I thought? Gosh, I have so many! So I asked him…”what do you mean”….and he responded, “well, you have the power that allows you just to sit out here and watch the clouds and do nothing, I don’t have that power”.

I tried to explain that we all have that power; we just need to practice it. Again, he was really not interested in hearing mum rant on (again) about how accessing the natural clarity, calm and connection within all of us was a basic human right. After helping him to come up with an imaginary game to play with his Shopkins, I stopped and asked myself “what are we doing to our kids?”. The constant entertainment we are providing them today – the iPads and TV, the phones and toys. Are we robbing them of a basic life skill? Of knowing how to be bored and just doing nothing? Just playing for the sake of playing, with no agenda, hidden or otherwise?

Now, I am absolutely not saying that we should stop all technology – as my dear husband (who works in tech and TV) points out to me, it is here to stay now, we may as well embrace it and of course I agree. I just wonder, what is, or more accurately, what will be the cost of this 24/7 stimulation generation we are raising? Are we raising adults who will be so disconnected from their bodies and the present moment experience that they will have no way to understand or sit with less pleasant emotions like boredom? Will this generalize to other human less pleasant emotions like sadness or worry? Are we just teaching them to numb out from a very early age by shoving an iPhone in their face when they don’t get what they want? In later years, will the iPhone be replaced by something more harmful like drugs or alcohol? I have absolutely no idea, I am curious though. I do know though that time doing nothing does feed our spirit, it does nourish our body and it certainly feeds our creativity.

We are at a really interesting point in our evolution, both as humans and, more specifically, as parents. We are raising kids at a time where there are really no parenting rules, anything goes. We have access to books and research that pretty-much support any parenting model we choose to follow: strict rules vs. more lasaiz fair, full time day-care vs. full time stay at home – really anything is OK and it is up to each family to work out what is best for them. And this is how it should be.

One thing hasn’t changed though and that is our core job as parents, which is (among many many other things) to prepare our children to be citizens of the world, to be able to contribute to the world in some way and to support them to live to their full potential. As we know, the “dark” parts of life are often the bits that can help us to learn and to grow most profoundly (such an unfortunate phenomenon this one!), as the quote goes, “we cant get to day without going through the night”.

What will happen if we don’t give our kids the opportunity to experience sadness or disappointment or boredom?

Life is hard and beautiful and hard and we need to equip our kids with a whole tool kit to support them to thrive and feel strong, regardless of what is going on. So, in my effort to help myself and anyone else who would like to listen, I have jotted down a couple of tips to support us to allow our kids to experience the whole rainbow of emotions – rather than just the shiny bits and you know, that really is a super power.

 1. Explore it

When they are feeling sad or worried, ask your child to explore the feeling. Where do they feel it in their body? Can they make room for it rather than fight it? Can they breathe into it and really feel it? Can they allow themselves to hold it gently, as if they are holding a precious flower or gem? Can they see that they are not the emotion, that it is something happening to them? They may even like to experiment with asking the emotion or feeling what it needs right now.

 2. Colour it

Ask your child to describe their feeling in colours or shapes – this can help them to express how it feels using words they are more familiar with. The risk here is that they become really annoyed and just throw something at you!

 3. Celebrate it

When they express either “positive” or “negative” feelings (from a mindfulness perspective, we tend not to assess feelings as good or bad) say, “that’s great, you are feeling, that means you are human and you are alive” or “how lucky are we that we get to feel all of these emotions – lets explore them together”.

If you ask me, we all do have this superpower, in fact, I believe it is our birthright. Sometimes, however, we just need to be reminded and, so do our kids.