The two year old mindset: A super power

Superman has his ability to fly and his super strength, Spiderman has all those arachnid capabilities,the X-Men do all sorts of wacky things and so on but do any of them have the ability to remain completely untroubled in life except when it comes to a dearth of yoghurt or the wrong colour underpants?? No, they don’t (at least I don’t think they do).  But toddlers do.

I was going to write this post yesterday but my own version of the 2 year old super power chipped in with ‘Now is not the time’  and it was right. So let’s hang fire and back track for a second whilst I go back to yesterday and explain what I’m blathering on about.

I’m talking about mindfulness;the ability to live in the moment.  2 year old’s have this ability as their default setting and, watching my own 2 year old son exemplify this yesterday, it was suddenly very apparent to me why we have an awful lot to learn from our little bundles of joy.

They are referred to in this way for a reason, are they not?  Yes they bring joy and laughter to our lives as parents but I don’t think that that is where this particular expression came from. I think it came from the fact the toddlers can find joy in the absolute simplest of things just by virtue of the fact that they are so unencumbered by thoughts of what they did yesterday or what they might find themselves doing for the rest of the day they are in.  When they are looking at a ladybird, it is all about that ladybird. They don’t care that you are on the school run and running late or that said ladybird happens to be in the middle of a path on which several other people are trying to make their way about their business.  They only care that it is teeny and red and tickles when it is on a fingertip.

Yesterday was a Saturday and, as such, is one of my most challenging days of the week. I’m on my own with my two small children and no car in a little village with a limited bus service and a finite number of places to explore and people to see (we’re fairly new to the village and don’t know many people and my family are hundreds of miles away).  Now, to me, this is why Saturdays represent torture.  Coming up with ideas to ‘keep them amused’ and avoid resorting to the TV feels way too much like particle physics to me and particle physics is not my ideal way of spending a Saturday. So when I woke up yesterday and realised it was going to be a rainy day my mood immediately took a turn towards frustration and irritation.

For about the first 2 hours I went through the usual litany of books and games. I couldn’t face crafting because neither of them are that interested and, being 2, Luke usually eats something  or draws somewhere he shouldn’t the minute I’m busy with 6 year old Holly.  A puddle walk together was out of the question because Holly was feeling poorly so by lunchtime the bored whinging had started and my insides were in knots.

Just then in walks Luke with his wellies and raincoat and starts swinging on the backdoor handle. It was absolutely pouring down but Holly was asleep and all indoor games with Luke are necessarily noisy so I suited and booted him up and let him out into the garden. Here are the pictures I took during the hour the he wandered around out there!

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‘Where are you going with this?’ I hear you ask. Well, I’ll tell you. Aside from feeling frustrated with being village/housebound with the little ones I also have a number of other issues going on at the minute.  Namely, I am incredibly anxious, all the time, about how I’m going to continue to financially support my children when work is hard to come by and I have very limited options for people I can leave them with if I were able to find work. The issue fills my mind most of the time and, more often than not , sends me into a complete tail spin which, at best makes me mildly anxious and, at worst, sends me into some pretty bad depressive states.  But, watching Lukey Lu happily pottering about the garden yesterday in the pouring rain gave me an epiphany that went a little something like this:

‘It’s really quite a challenge to just be happy with what you have. I spend so much time thinking thinking about what I ‘need’ to do; what I ‘should’ do in the next hour, day, month, year, my lifetime that I forget to just take pleasure in what I’m doing right now.  ‘

And what I was doing right at that time, of course, was beaming happily whilst watching the little man having fun seeing how much he could drench himself by catching rain in his upturned umbrella then flipping it over.  I’d stressed and stressed all morning about what I ‘should’ be doing with them and was  feeling very unhappy.  All it took was to watch him taking pleasure in the awful weather in his own little ‘in the moment way’ and I suddenly realised that I didn’t have to ‘do’ anything except follow the lead of the two year old boy whose wisdom clearly outshines my own in at least one way.  

I thought how much I loved him and the thought allowed me to tap into everything I have that I’m extremely grateful for.  Turns out there’s a lot.  The minute I was feeling grateful, happiness naturally followed and all I’d had to do to get there was stop and look and breathe.

So, there you have it. The superpower of a two year old is nothing more than the ability to focus on things that interest them and make them happy and go after it with determination . That’s ‘The Secret’. It’s something we all have the capability to do when we stop fixating on guilt and resentment about the past and anxiety and fear about the future.  Little children don’t suffer from those things. One way or another those are things that are drummed into us as we grow up so that we eventually lose our ‘superpower’ to go from sad to happy in the blink of an eye.  

But imagine how different our lives as adults would be if we never lost that ability.  Imagine how it would affect our choices and the decisions that often lead us straight off the path of happiness and into a quagmire of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’. Just imagine….

We all have responsibilities as grown up’s, I’m not saying that’s wrong.  Of course it’s not. That’s just life.  The trick is, when you’re feeling overwhelmed and disempowered, just stop and think.  Look around you and see what you have that you are grateful for and allow the knowing of what you WANT to do next to come slowly into your consciousness from far back in that part of your brain that is still 2 years old and  always remember this

You don’t always need a plan.  Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens

~ Mandy Hale

The universe has it’s own mysterious way of guiding you to your hearts desire. How was Luke to know that I’d let him play out in the pouring rain, not insist he come in for lunch and instead give him a banana and raisin picnic in his playhouse?  If he’d stopped to consider whether I’d allow him to do this before indicating he wanted to go outside he probably wouldn’t have bothered. But he’s two, he doesn’t do such stupid things as applying assumptions and reasoning to such simple things as what will make him happy, he just goes ahead and follows his heart 🙂

Lets have a few more of those ‘do what makes you happy moments’ now, just to sure youreally get the idea (ohh, okaaay, it’s really because these pictures make me smile and they’re what I feel like looking at right now)

 

Sitting down on a random doorstep for a rest en route to the shop

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Wearing silly glasses and reading a book on patchworking and quilting

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That (whatever that is – yoga maybe?)

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Wear a fez and some hideous T-shirts (sorry mam) to do some reading

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Eat with abandon

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Practice selfies (there’s about 2 dozen of these, all different expressions

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and, finally, just to exemplify the fact that you don’t always have to understand why or how something will happen (just keep living in the moment and trust that it will)….

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(Oh and, by the way, today is one of the few child free days I have in which I can get on with some serious writing but I found, when I sat down to start, that I had a million things on my ‘I should do’ list for the day. So I thought I’d do this instead, just to remind myself what being ‘in the moment’ can do for you and remove myself from that ‘stressy’ approach that was threatening to take over my day…..)  Now I’ve done this I’m feeling really happy and I know exactly what I want to do with the rest of my day…… My writing hand is on fire and it’s eager to continue, uninhibited by musts and shoulds xx That’s obviously why this post was wrong for yesterday whose afternoon activities mostly consisted of lets empty the toy box and get out all the interesting things we’ve forgotten about 🙂 In the end, Lukey Lu’s magic saved the day )

YA Fiction, Elitism and the Culture of “Should”

I wish I’d written this. I may as well have for how closely I relate to it. Thank you that lady 🙂

Count My Stars

By now I’m sure nearly everyone in the writing world has read or heard about the Slate piece on how adults should be embarrassed/ashamed to read Young Adult literature. (I’m not going to link to it, because I refuse to give them the clicks.)  I couldn’t possibly have missed it – when I checked Twitter on Thursday morning, my timeline was a seething mass of fury. And I… well, went off implies a brief explosion. This took place over the course of nearly three hours, prompting what I consider one of my top five greatest honors of my entire internet history:

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And, you know what? It was. When I get up a good head of steam on some righteous anger, it looks a little like this:

ImageMore often than not, I’m reduced to outraged sputtering, but every now and then I am able to find and use my words, and…

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I don’t want to….

Today is Saturday and I don’t want to…

 

I don’t want to cook the breakfast or get dressed or respond to incessant demands for cheese and crackers and mango juice.

If I was on my own I wouldn’t eat anything but fruit and toast all day

 

I don’t want to listen to the din of cartoons on TV that I’ve seen a thousand times

Tom and Jerry, you can kiss my ass…….

 

I don’t want to have a puddle jumping walk to the shop or bake yet more cakes or try to engage the kids in a craft project which will take them 10 minutes to get bored with a another 40 to clean up….

 

I don’t want to do three loads of washing and 5 loads of dishes and wander round the house wondering just how long it will be before I get round to cleaning the shower screen.

 

I don’t want to hear screams and yells and crying mixed up with ‘that’s miiiiine’, ‘he hit meeee’ and ‘muuuuuuum’.  I don’t want to hear myself shout things that I’ll regret 5 seconds later.

 

I just want to sit in peace and contemplation.

 

I don’t want to answer a million confounding questions or repeat my own a dozen times before stamping a foot on the ground just to make myself heard.

 

I don’t want to feel like my mind is desperately searching for an answer that doesn’t exist.  Just how do you entertain a 6 year old girl and a two year old boy together?  I don’t want to care.

 

I don’t want to have to press down my own mood and force myself to remember how important it is to spend ‘quality time’ with the children.  I don’t want to wonder what the definition of ‘quality time’ actually is.

 

I don’t want to have to feel guilty about everything else I don’t want to do.

 

I just want to write my book.  That’s all. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

I offer them love and they push me.  I try to teach them and they resist me.  I try to meet their needs and they make it clear that I always fall slightly short of the mark. I don’t want to feel inadequate.

 

But most of all, even after all of that, I don’t want to go to bed without gazing for a while upon their slumbering faces.  I don’t ever want to miss the opportunity to feel their plump little cheeks under my lips as I kiss them.  I don’t want to think that there could ever be a time when I wouldn’t be there if they would need me.  I don’t want to contemplate a life in which I wouldn’t get to see them grow and blossom, achieve and succeed….

 

I don’t want to have this conflict

 

I don’t want to publish this post, but i will because I do want other parents to know…You’re not the only one…

 

xx