The Gift of Self

Today’s post is from one of my biggest blog crushes, Christine Mosler. Chris’s blog is packed full of her beautiful photography, stories about her family, and posts about some of the charities she is passionate about. It recently made it onto Woman and Home’s list of the Top 100 Food Blogs. I am over the moon that she found time to write something for me.

I’m so pleased to be guest posting for Ruth today, the DorkyMum blog is one of my ‘Must Read’s and always has me coming back for more. You can normally find me blogging at Thinly Spread, Climbing Rainbows and Life is Delicious. In a former life I was a Key Stage 2 teacher, now I am Mum to four children aged from 6 to 16 and a freelance writer specialising in education, health and nutrition.

I’m a big advocate of the relaxed approach to parenting and, while mine do go to clubs and attend music lessons, I have consciously tried to leave plenty of time in the week for them to be bored. Learning to be bored is an important life lesson as is learning to appreciate the simple things in life; the things which come without a price tag attached but which are themselves priceless. Things like lying on your back watching leaves flutter in an apple tree.

Chris Mosler Thinly Spread photography

Boredom makes children look around them for entertainment, it might be banging pans, watching raindrops meandering down window panes or doodling. It could be lying on your tummy on a summer’s day, watching a tiny insect make its way through the lawn jungle and wondering what it would be like to be a Borrower so you could get down there too. Or it might be finding out what’s inside a flower bud.

Chris Mosler Thinly Spread photography

Boredom encourages imagination, curiosity and self reliance all of which are crucial as they grow. Pan bashing gives way to guitar playing, raindrop races are replaced by science experiments, and daydreams become poetry or novels. My bored teenagers wandered off from blackberry picking and were later found chatting in a tree and re-enacting the hand of god from the Sistine Chapel!

Chris Mosler Thinly Spread photography

In this increasingly technology rich, time poor world children need time and space to think and to process all that surrounds them. The 21st century is a noisy and demanding place with information coming in from all sides and they need to be given permission to stop and smell the flowers, watch the bees or to catch an autumn leaf as it falls. They need time to walk and talk and make up worlds full of dragons, magic and endless possibility.

Chris Mosler Thinly Spread photography

Switch off screens, limit access without being unreasonable, send them off to entertain themselves, let them take a few risks and test their limits, let them grow.

If you surround children with books, music, words, people and places without it being ‘organised’ and ‘planned’ to precision, if you allow them to choose or not to choose, if you allow them just ‘to be’ and to think and to wonder and to be content you will have given them the greatest gift – self.

Chris Mosler Thinly Spread photography

23 responses

  1. Beautiful post. I love this – and these photographs are stunning. I tend toward this approach with my own daughter. I find she’s happiest when I lay out a few different activities around the house and just let her potter around, playing with what she wants, rather than forcing her into a focused activity all the time. She loves to just be outside in the garden as I watch her at the back door, jumping in puddles and digging in her “flowerbed” of her windmills. It’s so easy to get caught up in this idea our kids need to be entertained all the time – either by noisy toys, the TV, organised activities – but that’s not always the case. Not in our house (yet) anyway!

  2. Hi there, I love this post too and agree with Molly, it is beautiful. I work f/t at the moment so weekends with my 3-year old are jam packed full of family, friends, kids birthday parties and playdates. Recently, I have been feeling under pressure and/or guilty that we do not do more organised activities so have started looking into various classes for my son to attend in the new year. It is easy to get caught up in it all and I feel EXHAUSTED all of the time, but you are totally right and letting them get bored is just as important to their development – I can’t believe it has taken reading this post to make me realise that! We have a rare weekend of nothing this weekend and I am going to do just that and not feel guilty for not cramming it full of stuff and noise. THANK YOU x

  3. Lovely. I was quite money-poor when my daughter was a baby, and used to feel upset when I couldn’t afford educational baby toys. I have pictures of her stacking tins from the cupboard and banging different pans with spoons, seeing how they made different noises, while I cooked. Her development was not limited by the lack of toys, and when she started school the first thing that the teachers told me about her was that she was a very imaginative, creative child!

  4. So beautiful and true and poetic and you quite rightly and tastefully decline to mention little boys who spend their boredom time with one finger stuck up their nose and the other down their trousers. Don’t do that, George! (as Joyce Grenfell used to say) Go and catch that falling autumn leaf instead!

  5. Wonderful post, so bang on with what I’ve been thinking and starting to write in my relatively new blog! The one i wrote at the end of the holidays Back to School: farewell Kairos, hello Chronos (http://wp.me/p2oDmP-7U) was exactly about this need for ‘reverie’. Apparantly researchers at UCLA have confirmed what you’ve just said, that day dreaming or ‘reverie’ is an essential part of brain development and of creativity, and problem solving. I’ve also started a series called The Best is the Enemy of the Good along these lines, following the huge response to my Good Enough Mums post – and am currently planning the next one in that series on this subject of Kids Leisure time and how our striving for ‘the best’ (fancy adventure/farm parks, a plethora of after school activities) can mean we deprive them of the good (going to ordinary parks, relaxing at home and learning to ‘be bored’)!. You beat me to it! Who cares, the more people writing about this, the better! So thank you!

  6. Fab post Chris. I am a great believer in letting my boys get on with it. and they are at their happiest when they are playing outside with each other and their friends.

  7. Lovely post, I totally agree. Even though leaving my three to their own devices usually ends at the moment with them rolling around like a litter of bear cubs, I think finding & developing their own occupations and interests can only be a good thing.

  8. I could not agree more! imagination is so important in the set of life skills a child should develop and there is no opportunity to do si in an over-scheduled life. Long live boredom!

  9. I only agree with the ideal of this up to a point. Mainly I disagree. Kids need to learn how to fill time productively. If that productive includes watching rainbows then I’m agreeing with you. But they still need to learn ‘productive’ relaxation. Bored teenagers hang around village greens, drink, take drugs, cause chaos. It is no coincidence that teenagers with active social calendars with involved parents are not the ones throwing bricks at factory windows. I love your little house on the prairie idyl but the reality here is busy kids (even if it’s a youth group chill out) are turning into the citizens we want to see and the time wasting wasters are eating up the police budget.

    • Ah, now, I agree with you too, to a point. I am merely calling for an ‘easing’, allowing children to have down time rather than feeling you have to fill every waking minute for them. Raising children who have no idea how to spend time which hasn’t been organised for them can also lead to disruptive teens when they are finally let off the leash. It’s a balance between the two and it is, undoubtedly, sometimes a very fine line. I’m calling here for a stepping back – involved parents, yes but not over involved helicopter parents. And Little House on the Prairie? No. I have 3 boys and a pre teen girl, there’s no rocking chair on the verandah here.

  10. Totally agree with this. It’s the way I was brought up and I try and let my children “get bored” as much as I can. Just when I think I have to organise something for them, all goes queit and I discover a game taking place, imagination being used and the joy of doing just that. One of the reasons I will hold off as long as I can on tablet computers. – The40yearold

  11. After the day I’ve had, I’d gladly settle for some raindrop watching right now. And silence (please let there be silence!). You’ve really made me think Chris. We need some more downtime in our lives and I need to stop being fearful that my children will get bored. It terrifies me, but it might be time to start limiting screen time round these parts…

  12. I wholeheartedly agree with everything written here. I recently read ‘Simplicity Parenting’ and it advocates time for boredom. A wonderful tip to help parents as well as children.

  13. I totally agree with this ‘stepping back’ approach. Without time to explore and reflect kids don’t learn to know themselves effectively. If their time is jammed packed with activities they can sometimes get stuck in doing things just to please us and lose the chance to develop a strong sense of self about the things they intrinsically enjoy. Big challenge as busy mums is to not only remember to provide these opportunities but to model it – thank god I have dogs to walk otherwise my modelling might well be glass of wine in front of the telly!

  14. The lovely Sarah from Grenglish shared this blog post with me in the comments of a post I recently wrote called “why it’s good to ignore your kids”. Chris – you put it far more eloquently than me. I agree whole-heartedly. Great piece.

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