Kids wander. And after today, I realize Mommy needs to do a little more wandering too. Too often, as parents, we stay on task, focused on our to-do lists that never seem to get done. We end up frustrated when our kids steer us off track, needling us with this or that. Well, today, I decided to let my kids take me off-track, and it made me fall in love with being a mom all over again.
It being Spring Break, I took two hours to drop everything and drive my kids to God’s version of Disney – a walk in the woods.
I started the journey with a march, instructing my kids to swing their arms to stay warm. Two swings in, my son yelled, “Dandies!” and ran off the trail. That’s boy joy for dandelions. Soon enough, all four of my kids, one-year-old Tucker in tow, were blowing dandelions in the wind.
The distractions – correction! – the discoveries were beautiful at every turn. Ant hills. Walnuts. Rings on a tree. Pine cones. Mossy rocks. Seeds and weeds. Pretty purple-flowered weeds! Let’s pick one! This trail was paved in Mommipop moments.
Had I gone on this walk myself, I would have spent most of my mental energy worrying how I’ll never finish today’s to-do list and wrestling with what to make for dinner. Instead, I just let go and watched my children soak it all in. Like a dandelion kissing the ground in every direction, my children illuminated the world around me.
Don’t just take this mom’s word for it; there’s research to back it up. Columnist and child psychologist Alison Gopnik says science shows an adult’s attention works like a spotlight. Unlike children, she explains, an adult’s consciousness has a narrow focus. While our spotlight view of the world helps us get things done, we are also “remarkably oblivious to everything else.” Gopnik gives the real-life example of children waving to a store detective looking for shoplifters, all while the oblivious parents and shoplifters went about doing what they were focused on doing. Children, Gopnik says, see things like a lantern, the light “illuminating everything around it.” Yes, indeed.
I wish I could say this trail and tale ends here. But upon returning to the mother ship, our family SUV, my children’s “lantern” quickly pointed to the shattered glass on the back window. We’d been robbed.
That’s when my “spotlight” took back control. Where’s my wallet? Whew. Where’s my bag? NO!!!! Where’s my phone? Call the cops. Replace the window. Reschedule the afternoon. Tomorrow’s to-do list just grew. But tomorrow, I’m also going to take a moment to remember my walk with my children. The day my heart for my little lantern-heads grew too.