A great friend of mine sent an article a while ago about how you should travel with your kids even when they are tiny.
It was a reminder of the complex neurological development in babies and toddlers and how they are absorbing everything. It shed light on the common worry (or thought) that a trip may not be worth going on because our little-ones won’t remember it. (Anybody who is a parent I know has put off things in their own life waiting until a time when their children will remember the journey.) But the article emphasized why that is absolutely not the reason not to go. It was this beautiful reminder of experiences being something that get ingrained in your psyche and soul even when the memories aren’t completely vivid. I certainly can attest to memories as a child that are more about the feeling of a time and less about the actual events.
The article said two things that I adored:
- that the experiences little children have–the ones before they are likely to remember detail (so let’s say before the age of around 3 or 4)–are the things that shape much of their consciousness. They begin to become who they are, develop what they love and will aspire to do in these early years. So in other words, don’t wait. Their early experiences are worth more than we know.
- that children spell love: T.I.M.E. Isn’t that the most beautiful thing you have every heard. It’s so simple. It’s so perfect. It’s so true. Children feel love and caring through the time we spend with them. Even when they are little, the time we spend doing anything–walking through a gallery in a foreign country, playing in the grass tumbling around with them, experiencing public transport, just sitting cuddling–is time that they are calculating in their developing mind as quality, as important, as stability, as love.
More and more I feel cemented in the feeling that time is the most beautiful thing we can give anyone. No matter what age or what the relationship, we value people through the time we take and the choices we make to be with them. I think that you can look at any relationship between people and–if we put words and the responsibilities of life aside–we can look simply at time and gather almost all we need to know about what this person really feels. While gestures, intention and gifts are lovely; time is probably the most meaningful thing we have in our possession. And you carry it with you forevermore.
There is a great buddhist saying that I notoriously quote which states: what we put our attention on grows. It’s a common sense phrase and yet it’s not that common, is it. The things that we focus on are the things that flourish and prosper. It’s as simple as that. If we love work and put our energy into our job, it’s likely we’re going to have a great career. The best athletes and musicians know that making your goal a reality involves countless hours of time and dedication to master the skill and hone your body and mind into a focused place.
And the opposite is true too, recognizing when someone is choosing something other than you is a telling moment in any friendship or relationship. That’s not to say we don’t have times that are extra busy or need focus and require our near and dear to understand that we just don’t have time to give. However, I think if we pause as individuals, take a step back and look at the people in our life (or the people we would like in our life) the common thread is that if there isn’t some shared value of time together, then as time marches on, there isn’t much of a connection to hold onto.
When it comes to little children this concept is magnified. The elements in the article struck a chord with me in the deepest way, because it was both a reminder that now is the time and that we shouldn’t underestimate what babies and toddlers are absorbing. They are little sponges and while their long term memory may not hold onto the experiences they have, their subconscious and brain development is without a doubt being created through these very experiences.
What we do today is who we become tomorrow. So here’s to not underestimating the capacity of little people (and big people alike). And experiencing all that life and this world has to offer, from day one.