Every child needs a healthy dose of nothing to do.
Nothing germinates their imagination, cultivates their delight, develops their relationship to self. Nothing gifts them with the discovery that their selves hold an infinity of world’s within worlds. Nothing teaches them something about life that nothing else can do.
Too much to do, too many activities, too early in life, risks distracting them from this natural growth.
It’s paradoxical, that as a father or mother we’re actually doing something by doing nothing. It’s so easy to fear that we’re not doing enough as parents. It’s easy to worry our child is falling behind. We compare ourselves to others. We sign our kid up for more lessons, classes, events, tasks. We hand him another screen, toy, book.
Stop. Don’t. Relax, and practice the art of nothing.
Spend an evening side-by-side. Light a fire in the woods and hang out. Sit by the shore and watch the waves lap the land.
Let the hours flow. Be alone together.
Robert Bly says it like this, in his poem For my son Noah ten years old
Night and day arrive and day after day goes by
And what is old remains old and what is young remains young and grows old.
The lumber pile does not grow younger nor the two-by-fours lose their darkness
but the old tree goes on the barn stands without help so many years;
the advocate of darkness and night is not lost.
The horse steps up swings on one leg turns its body
the chicken flapping claws onto the roost its wings whelping and walloping
but what is primitive is not to be shot out into the night and the dark.
And slowly the kind man comes closer loses his rage sits down at table.
So I am proud only of those days that pass in undivided tenderness
when you sit drawing or making books stapled with messages to the world
or coloring a man with fire coming out of his hair.
Or we sit at a table with small tea carefully poured.
So we pass our time together calm and delighted.