A few weeks ago I was driving to school for what felt like the tenth time that day to pick up the final batch of children. My mind was busy with a hundred concerns, such as what to cook for dinner and how to survive without a bedroom, and did I bring that cheque, and oh God I forgot the form that had to be handed in yesterday, will I have time to squeeze in a quick phone call at school..where is my phone?
You get the picture.
I was one hundred and ten percent in head mode and needed someone to comb my brain smooth and clear with a silken brush and remind me that actually I have a body and don't need to exist entirely in my head.
And so it was in that frame of mind that I was held up half way to school by traffic lights. I grabbed my phone.. a few precious seconds to tick something off my to do list. Texting, texting ......
'Mummy what happens when the light turns blue?'
There was someone in the back.. I'd almost forgotten, it was Leo.
'Well there isn't a blue light Leo, just red, yellow and green.' Why was my predictive texting not letting me write what I want?
'But mummy what does happen when it turns blue?'
I abandoned my texting, as the combination of trying to work out how to write thankyou (my phone seemed to be defeated by this challenge) listen to Leo and start driving again, was proving too much for me. I drove.
And then something changed.
What it was I can't remember, was it a glimpse of a glistening bunch of Guelder Rose berries in the hedgerow, or Leo's round eyes, trying to catch mine in the rear view mirror. Maybe I just managed to breathe a little deeper.
Instead of launching into a rapid fire educational explanation of what the red, green and amber light do in our practical world, I listened to Leo, really listened, and of course knew what he meant. Knew in my heart, not in my head. He didn't want rational, thought based answers, packed with nutritious information and facts. He doesn't have to exist in that reality yet. For him, anything is possible,
The traffic slowed again and I turned round briefly and whispered,
'Leo, when the light turns blue we have to fly'
His face lit up and his eyes shone, his whole body shivered in excitement..that was the answer he wanted.
We spent the rest of the journey to school in a blissful golden land of wings and blue lights. I felt much better, I'm guessing Leo did too.
I was reminded of a very similar incident when Tansy was tiny and wanted to know what the black tube running through our garden was. When I told her that it was the hosepipe to water the plants with, she actually looked at me as if I was slightly crazy. It took a few promptings from her before I breathed, left my head, and said,
'Well actually Tansy, it's a huge shiny snake that lives in the buddlea bushes and if you look carefully you might find her nest of babies.' The same shining eyes, the same shiver of excitement.
We live in the age of Too Much Information, it is a 21st century god
Every day, every hour, every minute, we are bombarded, attacked, cajoled, coerced, persuaded, by information..so much, so much, and how handy, just at our fingertips, at the touch of a button, day and night. The internet is a vast gluttons paradise, trillions of luscious morsels, to gorge on without ceasing, leaving us full, uncomfortable, dissatisfied and uneasily wanting more. Bloated and saturated. And yet we keep feeding. And we force feed our children.
It's hard not to do. How many times have I had to stop myself imparting an impromptu little educational speech? I don't seem to need much encouragement. An innocent little wide eyed question.. and Boom ...straight into lots of facts,
'Ah well in this case you see if you put this bit in here then x travels more slowly and sometimes this affects y, or in cold weather, z, and then .....' then I see the glazed, quizzical look in my younger children's eyes and stop.
But I am getting better, and with the little ones, often give the briefest of answers, or a story...or a cuddle. I want to let their minds stay free and dreamy and full of magic for as long as possible. Our children's minds are becoming as cluttered and overburdened as their toy cupboards, bursting with broken 'educational' toys. Little children are happier 'doing' not thinking..there's plenty of time to think later.
Do we really want them to think as much as we do? Do they need to know so much so quickly? Does it make us happy? Will it make them happy? What do you think?