Porongurup National Park, Western Australia - The Tree in the Rock - image Kerry Shaw
are you a grumpy mr grumpy pants? or do you have a playful perspective?
Look at this image above... do you see some rocks, moss, grass, leaves at the base of a tree growing from a rock or do you see the face of a rock fairy with her hair blowing in the wind, sporting some funky ear bling whilst her gnome mate watches over their little space? When you gaze at the clouds do you see a cumulus cloud formation containing within it potential rain....sigh! Or do you see a butterfly dancing with a pelican?
We live in a serious world and from a very young age we are told 'Don't be silly’, 'Grow up’, 'Stop being immature’. All the stuff that gets planted in our tiny little cute heads at a young age seems to stay there and as we get older intensifies. We then find ourselves saying the same things to our tiny cute headed children.
Our playful perspective, imagination and sense of wonder can be cruelly (and of course unintentionally) crushed by well meaning parents, grandparents, teachers, aunties, uncles and mentors. As a parent, I’ve been doin' a little thinking about this. I know that we (adults) have a responsibility to raise our children to become adults who function well in our world, are responsible and even understand what kind of clouds can potentially produce rain…
But do we really have to suck all the joy right out of them before they are old enough to have even heard of, let alone spell the word cumulus? (Ok, clouds are getting a bit of a battering from me today…just for the record I do like clouds even if they don’t look like pelicans or butterflies)
As a little cute head child myself, I was somewhat blessed by penniless and adventurous parents whose sense of wonder was always present. Perhaps this was because they had immigrated to a new and exciting life in Australia and the urge to explore was innate, perhaps they had to be creative because they just did not have the cashola to buy their entertainment, perhaps my folks were just really clever or perhaps it was a combination of all of the above.
My four cute head children have too been blessed by parents with nothing but a lotta love to share with each other and with them. My husband and I had our first baby at the very playful age of 16 years old, (no we were not married then, that came much later) there was no cashola based entertainment options for us either.
We had to be creative. This coupled with an inherited sense of adventure from immigrant parents made for some very creative and playful times.
A little while ago, friends from Perth who live in the burbs came to stay for the weekend. If you know the Perth (WA) metro area, you know there are lot’s of freshly sprouted suburbs with houses so intimate their rooftops almost kiss and lawns so manicured they almost look real. I do love these friends dearly & found it both hilarious and ridiculous when our mate (let’s call him Dave, cos that’s his name) said to his wife 'oh wow, check this out... Look what bush kids can do!' He was referring to a project my kids had spent then entire day working on. My two youngest monkies had taken the branches from bushes we had trimmed, stripped the bark from them, decorated them and named each ‘walking stick’ based on its characteristics. Think names such as 'the big bugga' and 'the tiny sparkly one’ and ‘the purple guy’ they then set up a store to sell their wonderfully named creations.
I was somewhat thrown with the 'bush kids comment' we do live in a regional city but it is a city and our home is fairly smack bang in the middle of the well established suburbs of that city, but the thing that struck me the most was that my dear friend Dave could not believe I had not organised it, supervised it or worried that they might hurt themselves doing it. He was actually surprised I had let them do it. Maybe this is the difference between living in the bush and the burbs. Maybe it is just how we have all become. I find myself worrying that my kids are not engaged in enough structured extra curricular activities but then I have to gently remind myself that the activities they are engaging in, although are far from being structured are actually still useful and beneficial to their development, sense of joy and wonder.
My kids take it for granted that they are allowed to play freely, it is so normal for them to go camping, get dirty, make things up, use their imagination and explore but I realise now that it's no longer the normal thing for a whole lot of other kids, and as adults we have kind of forgotten to teach our children how to play freely because we have forgotten how to play ourselves.
Children and their achievements become the centre of our (the parents) universe, we forget to play with them just because, instead we monitor their progress, track their achievements, tell everyone about it on Facebook (I'm guilty if that one too!) and structure all their germ free, educational based play!
They are missing out on the magical freedom and wonder that I believe is mandatory during childhood.
We are seeing a huge increase in youth mental health issues, just last year (2012-2013) headspace Albany, which is one of many centres of an Australian youth mental health initiative, had an increase in new young people accessing services of over 80%. EIGHTY PERCENT!
Young people are growing up too fast and it's not good.
And we, the big people, are missing out too! We are forgetting to play with each other, our kids, our partners, our friends and our selves (not like that weirdo!) We are forgetting to give ourselves a break and let ourselves be silly (unaided by alcohol or other stimulants) we are forgetting to play and we are becoming grumpy Mr Grumpy Pants kinda folk, less connected, lonely and sadder than ever before.
So how do we start to stop being such grumpy, Mr Grumpy Pants kinda folk and make a little or big difference?
Start saying yes to a playful perspective.
Just to prove clouds are great...even if they are cumulus formations containing within them potential rain image: Kerry Shaw
Start small, go outside and look at the clouds with your kids or by yourself, just stay there for 10 minutes and look at them... Don't take your phone, Don't Instagram it or share it on Facebook.
Just simply go lay outside and look up.
Give yourself permission to let go of analysing those clouds.
No you do not see a cumulus cloud formation containing within it potential rain… stop that.
If you find it tricky to stop analysing, simply close your eyes and take a few slow deep breaths. Then open your eyes and look again, if you need to stay longer, do that! If it starts to actually rain, you will get wet & if you just spent half the morning straightening your hair then I apologise for the inconvenience but really, your hair probably looks fantastic when its not straightened so re-focus, stop worrying about your hair and watch the rain drops fall as close to your face as possible…just because it’s fun…it really is!
If you want to write about the experience go for it, if you want to share it then share it with someone...to their actual face and see the little chain reaction it has, ask them to come stare at the clouds with you too.
When you start to slow down and shift your perspective just a little bit, you just might find that you start to experience a little bit of joy and maybe you can go back and look at the pic above and say ‘oh hello there’ to that funky rock fairy with her earring bling and her ever watchful gnome-y mate!