As adults we generally spend our lives ‘getting things done’. Our day is spent moving from one job to another, we have aims and purposes, deadlines and commitments. Even when we pencil in relaxation time it is often structured and shaped so that we get the best out of it. More often than not a long slow walk for a grown up is to somewhere or with a particular purpose in mind…perhaps a walk to a viewpoint, through a pretty forest, around a city’s sights, an opportunity to catch up with a friend, listen to music, exercise the dog…
Andrew and I took Little J on our family’s first buggy-free walk the other day. We ventured to the local park and decided to walk around the park to the swings, then back to the car via the cafe.
It started well…Little J waddled free from the car and made a determined beeline for the cross country path that I have only been able to gaze at longingly when there with the pushchair. We then crossed to the park’s outer path in sight of the road and stopped. For there in front of us were vehicles…cars, lorries, motorbikes and best of all, buses…not just one or two, but bus after bus after bus.
And so we pointed, we waved, we tried to say bus, we waved again. After an eternity Little J looked at his little feet and watched them walk him along the path a little further. Until they trod on a leaf and he needed to squat down and investigate the leaf which became leaves, which became stones and twigs and more leaves and then…ooo a dog! And so we watched the dog, we pointed, waved, tried to say dog and waved again.
Andrew and I were having a lovely happy time, but all the while we were chivvying Little J along, reminding him over and over about the swings and enthusiastically encouraging him to come along and follow us.
And then we noticed ourselves doing this and wondered why. Yes we knew Little J would have fun at the swings, but wasn’t he having fun on the path? Of course he was, but our grown up minds had decided that swings would feature as a central activity in our afternoon outing and so we were walking to the swings. Little J was simply walking. Slowly, happily and totally in the moment.
Which is what Little J does all day everyday now I think about it. Even just around the house. Take going downstairs…most of the time he doesn’t really know or care why we’re going downstairs, and if he knew at the top, he’s forgotten by the bottom. Each step is an adventure…he notices something new or appreciates something familiar along the way. He finds great enjoyment in clutching the banister, he watches his foot slide on the carpet, sits on his bottom, looks back up the stairs, makes faces in the mirror on the wall, points at the pictures in the hall and ‘tells’ me how high the ceiling is.
To stop and slow down is a wonderful ‘talent’ and to be living alongside someone for whom this talent is still inbuilt feels like a wonderful gift.
So Andrew, Little J and I did make it to the swings the other day…and to the cafe….and back to the car! We were lucky enough to have time in our grown up schedule to be on a toddler schedule that day. Well almost, we really did need Little J to go a little bit quicker on the way back to the car as darkness was setting in. We landed on some strategies to speed things up while still having fun…we followed dogs, bikes and pushchairs until they disappeared in the middle distance; one of us ran on ahead and hid for Little J to find us in far off trees. And when all else failed we pulled out the bubbles. Get the right wind direction and blowing technique and your toddler will be off at speed toward your destination chasing bubbles.
So I’m keeping the bubbles in my coat pocket for now just in case, but mostly I’m going to enjoy being in the moment with Little J. I’ve realised that taking long slow walks to nowhere in particular is my new favourite thing!