The other day, Snug and I were painting at the kitchen table. Full disclosure, I do not know much about painting… I had to google how to paint with washable Crayola paint when Snug became interested in such things. God bless Google. All this creativity that I once possessed but that was “educated’ out of me by an art teacher in my early childhood elementary days who was verbally less than thrilled with my visual artistic talents sent me on a pursuit of other creative outlets, namely theater and entertaining. I am circling back around in middle age, though, in my efforts to NOT kill my own children’s creativity (thank you Sir Ken Robinson!!). Hence lots of time spent CREATING! Snug will come to me and say, “I need to create, mama!” or I will just find her at the kitchen table, supplies spread out around her, deep in concentrated making.
I keep going back in my mind to a day a month or so ago when we were painting together in the kitchen. There was a moment where I was enlightened by my daughter. When you have these moments as a parent, we must pay close attention. Because in these moments of enlightenment, you catch glimpses of an unscathed soul in its most raw and natural state.
Hold on… I’m getting all deep before I’ve shared the darn story… A little background first! While we were painting, I asked Snug if she would like to listen to some music. I have all kinds of Spotify playlists and albums ready for inspiring creativity and learning… She said, “No, I just want to paint quietly.” Huh?! Well this was really hard for me. While we sat there my mind wandered to all the things I should be doing right now and what needed to happen later today, etc. I started thinking, “If we just had some music to listen to I could concentrate on painting…Ugh. I suck at painting. No wonder Sister Mary Blah Blah Blah was always so critical of everything I turned in…” So I asked again if she was sure she didn’t want music? Maybe some classical to inspire creativity! Or acoustic guitar to keep things mellow?! No she didn’t want music… But it was so quiet and I couldn’t stop my mind from racing… So I started talking to Snug to pass the time and she cut me off and said, “Mama, stop talking to me. I just want to paint and be quiet.” This time I got the message loud and clear. Her message and my own to myself. I shut up. I listened. I observed.
As we painted and I listened, I was overwhelmed by how that quiet truly was feeding her creative soul versus how I had trained myself to always have some background noise going so that I never have to listen to myself, any part of myself. Because let’s be honest…. Dear Lord, I don’t want to hear myself being a total mess… But that’s because of all this baggage I carry from life… What if I had become comfortable with the silence early on before the baggage? Then maybe I could have heard all the glorious parts of me instead of drowning everything out… That’s some deep stuff to pull from quietly watching your child paint a picture.
Since that morning, I have noticed that the quiet moments are when Snug and little sister, Ity, are their most creative. Outside, with just the birds and the wind and me tucked away in the background observing, she and Ity dream up the most magical experiences for themselves.
In the quiet living room, surrounded by their building blocks, cars and play kitchen, they brings their toys to life. When Snug is creating in the quiet kitchen her intensity is a delight to behold.
And I started to think back to when I used to take the time for myself, under what circumstances did I create best? You guessed it… In the quiet. Right now looking out the window, listening to the birds, the drizzling rain, and the breeze… just pouring out ideas and thoughts and thinking that I haven’t done this in ages and my soul has been in prison… Why would I imprison my soul for so long? But Snug helped me remember that the quiet is where I set my soul free.
And because this journey of child led learning feeds my soul, I am listening to the unspoken messages that my children are sending. I will nourish our souls with daily opportunities to practice living in silence. It is a mindful act in this day and age, because silence is easily lost in our noisy world. Our attention is being pulled everywhere at once and I, for one, have become addicted to the noise. I am not that person who is going to throw out the TVs and the tech and move off the grid so… I’m shooting for a balance. In the same way that I don’t want creativity to die as my children grow, so will I be instilling the daily practice of listening to the silence to which Snug so gloriously relishes and, in turn, replenishing my own soul in the process. Not a bad day’s wage.
If you are interested in this practice of mindful silence, I would recommend listening to or reading the transcript from a most wonderful podcast called On Being with Krista Tippett. Linked in the previous sentence is an interview with Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist, who shares his work The Last Quiet Places: Silence and the Presence of Everything. I listened to it myself just yesterday and it’s remarkable. The discussion reminded me of Snug’s silent painting time and my observations of late inspiring this post. There’s advice on practicing silence and things you can do with kids to integrate listening to the silence into everyday life.
The podcast, On Being, is just all around delicious too. Download the app and listen wherever and whenever the spirit moves you! But maybe turn it off occasionally and pay attention to that silence when you can. It, too, will set you free!