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Why I Let My Kids Run Wild and So Should You

I took my youngest daughter to Candy Land yesterday. She’s 3. She absolutely loves it and we go a few times a week. We take our jeep to the airport where it gets wings and we fly straight to our destination, can’t be bothered with airports or parking. She runs around with her mini-cart filling it with treats, giggling and talking to herself with glee, loudly enough that I can hear her even when I can’t see her (you know me, safety first).

People walk by me, pointing in the direction of the giggles and say things like “she went that way,” or “someone’s happy”. For each treat she selects, she looks at me, daring me to say no, but then I say, “ok, but just for pretend,” she smiles and says “ok mom”, acts like she’s gobbling candies/ donuts/ sprinkles before putting them back on the shelf. We do this over and over again, each round increasingly hysterical.

Before you think I’m completely nuts, you should know, we are actually just at our boring old supermarket (it’s not even a Whole Foods), and Candy Land is a game she invented to find delight in the mundane.

As someone who looks at people who laugh easily with awe and admiration (how do they do that? What is so funny??), I look at this kid and I make the commitment for the trillionth time to do whatever I can to honor and protect the light inside of her.

But it won’t be easy, even with all my courses, certifications and degrees, the odds are entirely against her. This is one of the many reasons that I have committed to studying, teaching and doing my best to embody conscious parenting. It’s completely contrarian and certainly not the easy path, but you look at this child and….

Oh wait, that’s totally not true… if this were my only child, I would be writing about how perfect my life is and how I’m just a natural when it comes to mothering. I’d be all over Facebook making people feel bad about their lives, put bows in her hair and write posts about how we love to cook together.

But anyway, back to this kid, who I hope not to rob of her authentic spirit. Authentic spirit, huh? You know what I’m talking about… when you look at a chatty three-year-old child (when not having a meltdown), and you see this indescribable sense of wonder, this sense of discovery, and presence. It’s how we come to life, from life, full of life. Connected to source energy. It’s why you can stare at a sleeping baby for hours.

But then something happens. That child who used to sit in a pile of leaves in the middle of the parking lot pretending to be a baby bear smiles less and less, that famous giggle goes away. All that inexplicable amazement, that stupid fixation at the glory of rocks and dirt begins to evaporate. Just like that, gone.

Why? Because of us. You and me. Adults kill the innate spirit of the very child we would die to protect. We are not the solution, we’re the problem. Yep, I said it. Sorry, but it’s true.

Think about how we learn to walk, talk and eat, we watch those around us and do what they do. They look to us to figure out how to respond to the world, what to be scared of, what to be interested in, how to fit in, by following the pack.

By becoming like the pack around us, we learn to survive. Sadly the adult pack is full of adult cynicism, suppressed emotions and a heavy emphasis on meaningless doing. Rarely just being, and certainly not exploring, delighting in the mundane, and cherishing the moment.

We take the child, who is by definition closer to source than we are, and make them more like us. And it’s a tragedy because they have the secret to living a peaceful and fulfilled life. Watch a child go completely nuts, and the very next moment they’re back in ineffable joy.

Their ability to live in the moment is unsurpassable. But we don’t learn from children, instead, we rush them to adulthood- to be more like us. The same us that have “meditation” and “yoga” on our goals list year after year.

Stop acting like a baby. Grow up.

If they weren’t so pure and didn’t love us so much, they’d probably say, “Why would I do that? Grownups don’t seem to have it so good. Just let me play and stop telling me to lower my voice and be careful”.

Their ability to live in the present moment is a constant, not a variable. Yes, they react but they let it go, flowing seamlessly from emotion to emotion….

THEY have it right, and we used to. You and I had the same sense of wonder and joy, endless power. I think (because clearly I can’t just do it) about how to be more present, to let each moment saturate me, to delight in the unknown. Needless to say, I suck at it all, but I try. Every single day. It’s a struggle but it’s necessary. Put your phone down, forget about your destination, and dive in. For starters, it’s waaaaaay easier than “killing time”.

So next time you tell your three-year-old to hurry because she can’t be late to preschool (which let’s be honest, is really expensive daycare branded in a guilt-free package), or you demand she get out of your room because it’s too early to wake up, just stop, and “zip it” (as we teach them).

Maybe you’ll actually learn something.

And remember that you are dealing with a pure little piece of wonder, and it’s your job to keep the giggles going for as long as humanly possible.

I believe in the power of education, technology, personal growth and lifelong learning.

But I know from experience that these are not enough. Information without understanding is confuses and misleads. Education and talent without application debilitates growth. Awareness without transformation only stifles action.

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