Empty moments – for me they are priceless – when there’s nothing expected of me – when my thoughts are completely my own – when putzing around – creating – daydreaming – imagining – reflecting – is on my own terms and perhaps only matters to me.
They are restorative and energizing in a quiet yet powerful way.
Our children need these empty moments too. They may at first complain there’s nothing to do and they’re bored and why can’t I watch a movie or play a video game. But these distractions they ask for will fade when the emptiness is filled by their own initiative.
It might take some time to let them be and let them figure it out. And I know how difficult that is for parents to sometimes trust the value this time offers to their children.
In an article I read a long time ago, the writer wisely encourages parents to promote this down time for their children when they are young, to preserve the time for them to fill in the spaces on their own accord, and yes, probably even to feel bored while waiting for the inspiration and motivation to come from within.
For it will.
The writer shares it’s far wiser and much more proactive to develop this capacity to handle spaces of time independently and creatively when young versus risking a bored teenager who has not had this practice and the gift of inventing, recognizing, developing and enjoying her own interests and independent thinking.
Children who have access to materials will find these spaces so much more natural to fill. Paper, crayons, markers, tape, scissors, “discarded junk”, natural items collected from walks, books, blocks, dress-up items as well as the good old backyard – dirt, sticks, stones, and the “houses” to make among bushes.
I observed a little guy recently just lining up a few small cars on the back of a couch. He would move them along the length of the couch, carefully, and then reverse their position to go back the other way. This was all done independently. He had no idea I was watching him. The look on his face was intent and purposeful. He didn’t need anyone to comment or interrupt. It would have wrecked his satisfaction of the moment if I had.
This is the way it begins. Simply.
And more moments on top of other moments like this will result in a young person who is resourceful and confident in identifying and defining what it is that he/she wants to do.
I’ve known a young woman graduating from high school this year since kindergarten. She was always an ultimate pretender and well- practiced in the art of pure play. As a child, she filled her empty moments, whether alone or with a best friend, with rich and creative self-directed play. As she matured, I believe this talent has given her the ability to define her interests, make her own decisions and respond to new situations with the strength and personal knowledge of who she is.
Her mom shared an endearing story with me just the other day. Her daughter and a few of her close friends, all graduating seniors, were gathered at their house and playing a game. The sophistication of these 17 and 18-year-old young women referred to this game as “improvisation” but to these two parents, who have cherished their daughter’s dramatic play since toddlerhood – it was but a more mature version of what had begun, years ago, in their daughter’s empty moments.
For it is these reserves that have built up over the years that nourish us.
In our busy, high-tech world of today, we risk losing this.
In the constant push and demand and desire to make sure our children are being offered every possible learning opportunity out there, let’s remember one of the most significant and basic ones – empty moments.
If you struggle with your children responding to using time on their own, give me a call at The Parenting Place, 784-8125. Perhaps together we can find some ways to get everyone started.