And so my 17-month-old daughter and I both set off for a short walk to our local shop to buy some milk – a normal walk to complete a normal errand.
Like millions of other busy adults, I never seem to stop and rest. I wanted to make the errand a short trip with minimal fuss or drama. I also wanted my daughter to walk alongside me as opposed to being pushed in her pushchair – after all, the shops were only a 90 second adult pace walk away.
As we set off, I began by walking at an unfair pace for my daughter. She was having none of it and wanted (rightly so), to walk at her pace on her terms. Within seconds, her naturally young developing mind brought herself to a sudden stop. She looked up toward the sky to look at a low flying bird which must have caught her attention. She pointed to it (with her thumb, bless her), and looked at me. As if to say, ‘look daddy, I can see something amazing’. My automatic response was a brief ‘Yeah, it is a bird, but let’s get a move on’. A short, sharp response to let her know I was in a rush. But why was I in a rush? There was no reason to be in a rush. It was my day off from work and we had no plans for the day.
If I was walking to the shop on my own to buy some milk, I would have also been on an automatic, robot-mode by walking at an incredibly fast pace with one thought and one thought only: to purchase the milk and walk back in an equally fast pace, without a care for anything or anyone at all. Milk would have been the only care.
Looking in hindsight, I once again found myself on automatic-mode on this walk. But why was I in a rush, today? My daughter was not. She had all the time in the world.
I held her hand to continue on our route to the shop. Being an inquisitive, independent toddler, she made it clear she did not want to hold my hand. So I just let her walk at her own pace whilst I walked a few steps ahead. Again, she suddenly stopped to look at the world around her: the fallen leaves her boots touched, the empty trees rustling in the Winter breeze; the dogs being walked by their owners; the school kids walking passed us with their takeaway chips. After a few more minutes of stopping and starting, her curious eyes saw a puddle a few metres ahead; she walked up to it and did what any toddler would do and waded through it (splashing and walking like a duck). She then turned around to splash her way through it again, all the while giggling and looking at me, as if to say, ‘look at what I have found now, Daddy’. She was correct. She had found a lot of things along her very short walk. She noticed, appreciated and learnt a hell of a lot during that short space of time. All the while, I was in robot-mode, storming through the fallen leaves, ignoring the trees, not fully noticing the dog, not fully noting the kids with their chips. I just wanted to buy some milk.
When she was kicking up a tsunami inside the puddle, it got me thinking. My mind suddenly snapped out of my automatic mode.
I began walking mindfully with my daughter.
Mindfulness aims to bring yourself in to the moment, here and now to become aware of your life minute by minute – in other words, to stop living your life on auto-pilot. And there I was walking to the shops with my daughter on complete auto-mode without any awareness at all – only an end goal: to buys some milk in as quick a time as possible.
As my daughter splished and splashed, I suddenly entered the mindful world. A world in which we should all live in. One in which toddlers look as though live in. Her brain was making countless connections with her experience of the walk – this would have aided in her learning and development in terms of her world around her in that short space of time.
I am not saying we should all splash our way through puddles and point at birds with our thumb, I am just saying we should all calm down, slow down, relax and become aware of our everyday world – especially the world you see when you carry out an everyday task such as a short walk to the shops. You will be surprised at what you notice.
I sit here writing this reflecting on the walk but I better go now, as I want to run through a puddle to get my socks wet.