As adults we are always thinking all the time; thinking about what’s right and wrong, acceptable or not; thinking about what to have for tea, what we’re doing tomorrow, what we should be doing today. It can all get a bit exhausting. Even more so when you start to consider or, dare I say it, overthink when all this thinking started.
It is with great confidence that I can say it must be some time after toddler-hood. You see I have been observing my son (currently 2 years and 9 months old) and there is a definite lack of exhausting grey matter machination with him:
If I’m in a situation with new people I may exchange smiles and hellos, possibly a few words of small talk depending on the situation. I will be thinking about how I’m coming across, what the other person is thinking of me and remembering on some level all the lessons I’ve learnt about acceptable public behaviour.
My son on the other hand will start by showing off his physical prowess – jumping mostly – then progress rapidly on to physical contact; a friendly arm on the shoulder to suggest a joint game if you’re lucky, a full on body hug if you’re not. No concerns whatsoever for the opinions or bemusement levels of other children.
I watch my son fall asleep most nights, and with the best seat in the house for this daily sleep show I can confidently say that my son under-thinks this area far too much for my liking. You see whereas I get into bed, snuggle down, close my eyes and try to get to sleep, my son gets into bed, snuggles down and waits…he doesn’t close his eyes, he doesn’t try to sleep. He must on some level welcome the onset of sleep but I don’t think it’s a cognitive approach. He lies there with his eyes wide open until sleep has worked hard enough for his attention and happens to him. It both impresses and unnerves me.
Todders live in honest worlds…my son is at that gloriously literal age where developing complex stories to cover misdemeanours is just not on his mental agenda.
Me coming from kitchen to lounge: it’s very quiet! What are you up to in here darling?
Son: watch this mummy, I’m drip-dropping my milk into your slipper…
Of course this honest approach has its detriments to the parent too – there’s no pretty social packaging with a toddler. They want to leave a friend’s house? They’ll say. They don’t like their food? They’ll say and possibly deposit it on the floor. They think you look funny in your new ‘cool’ top? Yep, they’ll say.
So no devious web of deceit in a toddler world, no mental acrobatics to be popular, they are firmly in the ‘tell it as it is’ camp.
Free running, or Parkour, is an exciting take-over and reclamation of spaces (often urban) using our bodies. It is thought of as physical, clever, a bit philosophical and risky – an art form; a discipline. Good old Wikipedia describes how: Practitioners aim to get from one point to another in a complex environment, without assistive equipment and in the fastest and most efficient way possible. Parkour includes running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping, rolling…
‘Parkour’, ‘free-running’? This is merely a normal walk into town with my toddler. Forget the intense training to be a Parkour practitioner, apparently all you need to really do is free yourself from social conventions; stop thinking what you know and start implementing a bit of Toddler ‘doing’. And then? Well then a bench is a ship’s plank that needs to be walked, railings and lampposts are fireman’s poles, drain covers are ponds that must be jumped over, concrete bollards are stepping stones to be balanced on and leapt between, and a wall is a castle of which you must be the King. And it all must be done FAST.
I don’t spend a huge amount of time thinking about my clothes, looking at them this morning makes me realise I probably should BUT I do spend some time thinking…thinking about what I would like to add to my wardrobe, what I would like to wear today, perhaps tomorrow too. My son on the other hand would rather not think about clothes at all. Naked is much more fun.
If pressed to be sartorially conscious I’m not convinced he gives it his due attention: I popped off to buy him a few new t-shirts last week…I asked if there was any picture in particular he would like on them…not stopping in his construction of the wooden block ‘brickworks’ he was busy with, he rapidly listed ‘horses, gingerbread men and motorbikes’. There were no horses, gingerbread or motorbikes in the shop I went to. He didn’t care…you know, I don’t think he had really thought about it.
Now I love mindfulness but I don’t find it easy, I have to practise hard and concentrate on meditative breathing in order to focus solely on the moment I’m in and, to be honest, most of the time I fail. Although equipped with extraordinary memories, toddlers don’t seem to be shackled by the constant presence of past and future in their minds. Time is a vague and loose concept and living solely in the moment for them is not a ‘meditative practice’ it is life.
I imagine this overall approach of ‘action over angst’ comes with some cons for the individual, but given that my son spends 90% of most days happy I’m pretty sure it’s an approach that’s working out for him.
So in the interest of your happiness levels I urge you to act like a toddler once in a while and, to the melody of Snow Patrol, don’t think, just do.