Child Time: Backward Follow-the-Leader
Here’s something fun to try the next time you’re hanging out with the kids, blissfully agenda-free. Rather than working on a particular piece with a specific outcome in mind, this is an exploration of creativity. See where it takes you. Adapted from The Mindful Child by Susan Kaiser Greenland.
In this version of the classic children’s game, the child participant doesn’t know that there’s a game going on. The primary “rule” of this game is that regardless of your child’s age, he or she is always the leader. The idea is that you, as Mom, simply follow along with whatever your child chooses to do, engaging in whatever conversation your child initiates, all at your child’s pace. Don’t tell your child that he or she is the leader; simply try to become totally tuned into your child’s rhythm, interests, and activities. If you have more than one child, take unspoken turns with each of your children. Try to avoid “redirecting” your child’s attention unless he or she is actually facing danger. Let go of the “shoulds” running through your head.
As mothers, our role is often that of corralling our children’s wandering minds and bodies and shepherding them through a maze of goal-directed activities dictated by schoolwork, family, and community obligations — and sticking to tight schedules. Letting go of this role, the one in which you are a cross between an army general and a personal valet, and assuming one in which your child is in control, can be difficult, exhausting, and boring. “Boring” is a word many of us feel guilty about using in connection with our kids, but to be honest, following your child’s lead can be very boring. Using tools of mindfulness, we can transform these occasionally frustrating and dull moments into an entirely different, even interesting, and extremely satisfying experience.
This piece was reprinted from the last issue of the Creative Times, our monthly newsletter.
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I did this today with my son for two hours. We played school, practiced math, did yoga, took a rest, had a snack, played monopoly, and played mommies and daddies. All were his choices, and perfect on this morning when I was feeling too tired to “do” anything!