Children want you to be present
I believe the struggle with being a parent today is often caused by our attitude of mindlessness. We can't remember where we put our keys or what we were about to say, we drop crockery when we're washing the dishes, we forget where we parked our car, and so on...
We spend many of our waking hours not being present. The mind does a great job of keeping us away from the present moment, either fast-forwarding us to the future or leaving us stuck in the past. Of course, it's important to plan the future and it's nice to recall some memories of the past, but when we spend our life daydreaming we end up not living our lives as fully as we could.
Yoga teaches us the importance of presence: when practising asanas, the breath is our guide, it keeps us in the present moment. But often the moment we step off our mats, our mind rushes us somewhere else, and the magic, that unity we experienced on the mat, is soon gone.
Then one day maybe we decide to have a family and if babies come, suddenly our perspectives on the world change. Or maybe not. Maybe our egos do not want to loosen the grip, and having a baby becomes the most challenging experience in the world.
Babies require presence, dedication, and self-renunciation. There is no way out.
And this is because babies require presence, dedication, and self-renunciation. There is no way out. They want you to be there for them, in a full body-mind experience. But this time, your full attention is not directed towards you but towards another human being. Your own self is no longer the most important thing in the world. Babies want you to be there for them, and they want your real self, not one of the masks society asks us to wear...
As Amy Matthews beautifully puts it: "An infant doesn't care if I know a lot of random facts or can say fancy words. The infant responds when I am present and engaged and in relationship. Working with them has shown me that all the stuff I know isn't the most important thing I can offer."
When children grow up, more lessons are to be learnt...
Children are happy in the here and now
Hiking with a small child can be very challenging. That's because children really do not care about getting from point A to point B! They live in the now, and the now for them is every single little thing around them, in that moment, and those are the most exciting things in the world!
I remember walking with my 2-year-old son and he wanted to stop at every leaf, every stone, every puddle (of course!) that we found on our way. After the initial frustration, I slowly learnt to appreciate what was around us. I re-discovered the smell of flowers, the marvellous world of insects, I touched the bark of trees, walked bare feet in rivers, and yes, tasted some soil now and then...!
I started, finally, to see and feel what was around us, exploring the world with all our senses. I loved walking this way, it really made me appreciate and be grateful for everything that was around me - something that we sometimes forget when there is a mountain-top to reach and 25 km to walk to get there! We are always so busy in our daily life, rushing here and there trying to catch a glimpse of materialistic happiness, that we forget the only thing there is: the here and now.
Children don't get bored!
Boredom is a common ailment in our society. We need external objects to entertain us and we quickly get bored by them, always longing to change things: phones, clothes, cars, jobs, houses, partners... We are never happy with what we have and feel often guilty about not being productive all the time.
But have you ever seen a 2-year-old slouching on a couch sighing: "I am bored!"? No - boredom develops when overloaded with things to do, to play with, to watch, to touch, to choose from... Children do not need "things"; in fact, the less they have the more creative they become.
Children do not need "things"; in fact, the less they have the more creative they become.
Fancy, big, shiny toys may have an immediate "wow" effect but are very soon forgotten. For example, on Christmas Day, how often have you seen children more interested in the box or wrapping paper than the present itself?! I suspect that overloading children with 'stuff' is a fast-track ticket to create easily-bored teenagers!
Children are pure
Finally, children are innocent and will trust you fully. There is no malice in their words and no wrongdoings. They do not know racism. They have simple needs and desires, and most of the time are supremely content with small things. They remember the promises you make (so don't lie to them!) and are able to forgive you no matter what you did. They have huge hearts and ancient souls.
Ultimately, all children want is presence and love. They are the ultimate yogis. Let's honour and respect our children, we have so much to learn from them.
Ultimately, all children want is presence and love. They are the ultimate yogis. Let's learn to honour and respect our children, we have so much to learn from them.
About the author:
Caterina Allegra is a yoga teacher and nature lover based on the beautiful island of Sicily. She trained with Esther Ekhart and believes that teaching yoga is the grassroots work needed to save planet earth! She is a mother of two and is madly in love with life and all its expressions, from people to food to music to art to mountains. You can find her on Facebook: Sicilyoga - Yoga & Natura con Caterina and on her website: www.sicilyoga.com