There are lots of us out there who go from one place to another, pause for a minute here and there when we see something of interest – but we don’t stop – our minds are on other things – elsewhere. Even if it is something of interest, we don’t stop right away to examine it right there. Children do.
Examples: An adult is walking in the mall and hears the Barbershoppers (a men’s chorus) singing. He keeps walking and vacantly thinks to himself – “I remember when I wanted to sing 4 part harmony like that,” walked on and then forgotten completely about it.
Or a friend may have shown us a skirt she just made. We admire it, saying we always wanted to learn to sew, but didn’t know anyone who would teach us.
When we went to the latest play at the local playhouse as we shook hands with the cast, we told one of them we had wanted to be an actor when we were young.
Or we had a passing interest in gardening/always wanted to write poetry/learn to dance/use a computer, etc. Some would say that they had not pursued the interest at the time because they didn’t have the money or the time. Others may tell you that they always felt that they “threw the ball like a girl” and they were embarrassed to play. Many had learned from the past that it was better not to try at all than to try, look bad, and fail.
Most activities in life have introductions to prepare for the main event (a learn and practice schedule). Music has its Preludes, stories have their Introductions, sports have their warmups, books have their Preface. People aren’t just thrown into a job, there is training and a period of adjustment. With children or adult beginners, we will call that period of time it takes for one to learn in order to perform well a Prelude. It is practice. Examples might be: Learning to overcome the fear of speaking in class, redoing your failed lab experiment, trying to figure out how to study a bee’s hive or anthill, a dent in the fender of the car, the story without a plot, a dead plant, or a boring speech. We need to find ways to clap for the effort, for the unique idea, for the creativeness, eagerness, fun they had finding out about it, applaud the trial-and-error period, the practice, when the product may not be all that it could be, without dampening the enthusiasm, the excitement, without breaking the spirit. We need to learn how to encourage each other above a mumble – so others can hear.
We need to change. We need to pay attention and show an interest in each other – in what our family (children, spouse, mother, father, etc.) are doing. Difficult? Yes.
However, most of us don’t have time to pursue our own interests, much less those of our family and friends. Be curious? Take the time to look at those wiggly, slimy things? Should we get interested? How? Begin by looking around and listening? Asking questions? By being alert to your surroundings?
Learn to be interested; learn to pay attention. Model inquisitiveness. Let this be a gift to our children. Show an interest in their activities, if they know nothing about spiders, find out together. Sometimes they know more about a topic or bug than you do. If they do, show your appreciation, get them to explain it to you and applaud. Find opportunities to make inquiries. You aren’t allowed to do their homework for them, but you can both have your own interests – and you, as a parent, can help as much as you want on those. Sprinkle with praise. And encouragement.
“By praise you are loved into being.
By encouragement you become unique.”
“By choosing to be kind to another
you release any strident expectations
of others toward you.”
“You are unable to give joy
unless you possess it yourself.”
“By being gracious you not only exhibit beauty,
But bring out the goodness in others.”
“You are unable to give joy
If you do not possess it yourself.”
Gentleness evokes a quiet spirit.*
This is where open-ended statements and questions come into communication techniques that work: “And then you…..”, “I wondered what you had done differently…”, “And your conclusion was….”, “What did you do first? Ask questions if you have them. Be honest, because if you do know something about a subject, this the perfect time to share it and be able to carry on a conversation, a time to build questions of value upon your joint knowledge, a relationship building activity. Through activities like these, relationships are built.
If we want to leave something to our children, let us train them in something that will serve them well for their entire lives, let us train them to be inquisitive. Agree with them that anything that looks that shiny, and wiggles along so quickly has a lot to show off, and is really something! However, it doesn’t make a sound. I wonder why…) That question is interesting enough for us to spend a little time on it.
What about people? We need to find out something unique and wonderful about at least one person a day and speak it out loud and clear. Learn to observe what people wear, what colors look good on them, what they did for fun last weekend. Listen for their values (the easier it will be for you to catch them being generous, loving, kind). Too many look for something to criticize. We need to be the bearer of good news. Ex: I’ll bet you that your sister had not had anyone today give her praise until you commented on the kind, protective, gentle sound in her voice when she told you about how she had found a cocoon in her window this morning and she was going to make sure that it had safe passage out into the world when it was ready – after her family had named it, studied it, and watched its transformation (Caught in the act).
* (A few lines from an unpublished Word given to me 12-1-20)