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Susan Bruck
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The gift of the ordinary day

Monday, April 7, 2014

The true joy of live is not in the grand gesture but in the consecration of the moment. From Small Graces: The Quiet Gifts of Everyday Life by Kent Nerburn.

In The Ordinary is Extraordinary: How Children Under Three Learn by Amy Laura Dombro and Leah Wallach, the authors explain why everyday activities and routines are the most  important educational activities you can share with your child.  To a small child, everything that we do is fascinating.  The young child “sets about exploring every day by collecting, organizing, and reorganizing information about their bodies and their environment, about people and how people behave and communicate with one another.”  The young child needs to practice, and routines and repetition delight them.  What they most desire to learn is how to get along in the world.  Observing your child gives you clues as to what they are working on learning.  The authors also remind us that we don’t have to be perfect to be good parents: “If you’re like most parents, you don’t always have enough time to give your children all the attention they need, or enough patience to keep everything under control without snapping.  You make mistakes.  But that’s part of everyday life, too.  Even when you are tired, angry, discouraged , or confused, you are still teaching your child just by being with her.”  That’s a relief!

Kim Payne writes about the gift of ordinary days and the “pressure of exceptionality.”  We aren’t all exceptional at everything that we do, and if we adopt exceptionality as our standard, most of our children will fail.  Kim suggests that what we really want for our children is engagement.  “We want their love of the cello to grow, to evolve and endure throughout their lives, whether or not they perform…whether or not they are ever exceptional cellists.” There is a lot of pressure when we feel that we have to make everyday exceptional.  Feelings and responses can become forced or muted.

That wonderful feeling of anticipation can be lost, too, when we go from one high note to the next.  Do you remember that wonderful feeling of counting down the days until summer vacation or a family trip?  We live in a time of “on-demand.”  We want everything faster; we want it now.  But Kim points out that “anticipating gratification, rather than expecting or demanding it, strengthens a child’s will.  Impulsivity, wanting everything now, leaves the will weak, flaccid.”

The pressure to be busy all the time, to live a life full of high notes, can also plant the seeds for addiction.  It can create a reliance on “outer stimulation, a culture of compulsion and instant gratification.  Addiction can be defined as “an increasing and compulsive tendency to avoid pain or boredom and replace inner development with outer stimulation.”

Kent Nerburn writes: We must never forget that the mindful practice of daily affairs is also a path into the realm of spirit…But ours is a transient life, lived on the run, with an endless sense of process, of movement, of chasing the future.  We seldom pause to shine a light upon the ordinary moments, to hallow them with our own attentiveness, to honor them with gentle caring.  They pass unnoticed, lost in the ongoing rush of time.  Yet it is just such a hallowing that our lives require.  We need to find ways to lift the moments of our daily lives—to celebrate and consecrate the ordinary, to allow the light of spiritual awareness to illuminate our days.

Let’s honor the ordinary moments for our children and ourselves.  Have a simply wonderful week!