This Vacation – Doing Nothing

To do list are long and mostly not achievable in given time. Why not to have doing nothing list. Which will be empty. Let child fill this list with the way he wants, at least during the vacation 🙂

A boy was sitting on the edge of a lake, looking yonder.
A passer-by asked, “whatcha doing?” “Nothing” the boy replied. He was lectured to use his time “productively”. The boy sighed and waited for the first passer-by to go away.

After some time another passer-by asked, “whatcha doing?”
“Thinking” the boy replied. Satisfied this passer-by moved on.

After some time another .passer-by asked, “whatcha doing?”
“Observing” the boy replied. Satisfied this passer-by moved on too. Now wiser, the boy continued to give people answers that they liked.

Finally, a child of same age came along and asked, “whatcha doing?” “Nothing” the boy replied. Nodding in agreement, the child joined the boy, sitting down to do nothing!

Here is our recommended TO DO list for children and for parents to allow them!

1. Fail
Failure brings following learnings

It bring down the premium on success or on winning. Given that, in life, possibly we would have 50% success and 50% failure – it makes sense that children learn how to accept it. The amount of learning in failure is sometimes higher than in winning (provided we do not give a lecture about it :-).

Its funny – first we create expectations and then attend stress management classes. We read in the newspaper about a school in Bangalore where middle school children are undergoing stress management sessions. Let summer be a time sans expectations when children enjoy failures too. Failure, once we learn how to enjoy it, can be such a good reset button.

Let children attempt tasks, which in your opinion, are out of their reach. In our observation parents step in too soon when children endeavor tough challenges. No wonder the cry of “I can’t” is so common. Tell, mean and show kids that, “It is fun to try, even if you fail”.

Two of the best areas where failure is (almost guaranteed) are: sports (and games) and cooking. Let children lose games, let them cry and throw a tantrum. Let then know that losing is part of the deal! Let child cook and churn out a horrible-on-palette dish. The advantage of activities like sports and cooking is that an immediate another chance is available for child to have another go!

2. Make wrong choices

The mother had encouraged him, goaded him, wished and prayed for him. He had told her, “Yes mama, I will win the race”.
Loaded with expectations, as he came back from school, mother asked, “You won”? He replied, almost triumphantly, “Neeraj won the race. I wanted him to win, because he wanted to win so much. I helped him win. But I feel like a winner!

Yes indeed he won – not the race but his friend’s heart.

Its great fun to make wrong choices. The fun part is not in the wrong part of it – it’s in the making of choices. And sooner we learn that no matter what we do, no matter what age we grow up to, wrong choices are as much a part of our life, as the right choices.

What better time – to cut children loose of your decision making and hence develop their own.
What better time – for children to realize that there are no wrong or right choice. Just that each choice leads to a different consequence.
What better time – by making wrong decisions – for children to learn that consequences can be thought, planned and taken care in advance.
What better time – for children to live with whatever consequences and learn to accept them, learn from them and enjoy them.

During vacations let children decide how to spend time, what to buy (give them budget), what to wear, whom to play with and so on. A common concern shown by parents is that if I let the child decide, she will watch TV the whole day. Our counter-argument is that, in most cases, the child’s choice is not completely accepted. The child knows that my parent disapproves of watching so much TV. Perhaps this disapproval is her raison d’être to watch more TV. Can we LET the child decide and accept the child’s choice and if required only make the child realize what other options the child has other than TV.

3 Lose interest
Personally in my childhood, I have gone through all kinds of hobby classes like painting, clay, photography, music, guitar, computer, mehandi, salsa, tailoring, pottery, stained glass, bakery, embroidery, tennis, swimming, yoga phew, and the list goes on.
Some I liked, some I did not; some I left in between, some I did with zeal and enthusiasm, from some I learned, from some nothing. The most important aspect, however, was that there was no pressure from my parents. With loads of equanimity they let me leave one hobby and hop to another – never really perturbed about my oft shown fickleness in some hobbies. Nor they became too eager about my oft exhibited passion in others. Perhaps their mantra was: try what appeals, leave what doesn’t go to whatever extent in the ones you enjoy.

Losing interest perse is not a sign of lack of grit or determination or concentration or any of those qualities many parents are worried about. Losing interest is just a common human trait. Watch any adult clicking channels in front of the TV and you would know what we are talking about 🙂

4 Not learn
Learning as a goal can in itself be a hindrance or limitation.

When someone is seeking, it happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal.

Hermann Hesse from his book ‘Siddhartha’

It is not very surprising, that when we ask children “what you learned?”, we get few responses. But when we ask children “what you enjoyed?”, we get a bombardment of excited sharing.

Our son 5yrs old showed interest in learning to play Tabla. He started learning form a teacher. The teacher in his urge to send my child to the stage, started pushing him:

  • Play properly and play so many times.
  • Practice else you will not be able to go to stage.

Soon he lost interest “I do not want to go to Tabla class”

We wish the teacher had only focused on enjoying the tabla. But perhaps he is normally surrounded by parents who have a lot of expectations and that is why over years he too has started pushing children to learn. We hope more parents and teachers would realise that the moment the monster called “have you learnt it” pops his head, many children simply get turned off.

If you watch children, they do not do things to learn something. They do things because out of enjoyment. And soon the learning within that also becomes enjoyable and they learn. Summer is a great time to let this inherent learning happen. See if you can avoid putting children into various summer classes with the expectations of learning, of performing, of becoming better.

The irony – best at display at a swimming pool – is that many parents themselves do not know (swimming) yet are constantly goading children to learn swimming in 10 days, rather then just letting them enjoy playing in water.

5 Do Nothing

One reason we are not able to appreciate the joy of doing nothing is because we have made ourselves and our lifves very busy. From Yoga gurus, to medical practitioners to spiritual thinkers – all advice a daily dose of doing nothing. It’s the nature’s way of recuperating, of restoring one’s inner harmony, of enriching oneself. Next time you are out with your child – try doing nothing – just be with each other.

Again ‘doing nothing’ reduces premium on achieving. We are not against achieving – but too much focus on that is just going to increase the stress levels. If we have learnt one thing by leaving corporate life is: to go easy, to take breaks, to enjoy the holidays and life!

Breeze blew,
the trees swayed,
doing nothing.

It rained,
rocks sat drenched,
doing nothing.

Sun shone,
clouds floated by,
doing nothing.

Thoughts came to me,
thoughts went,
doing nothing.

An article by
Aditi & Ratnesh
on doing nothing