As an adolescent one of the things I loved about rock climbing is that life is simple. You are either strong or you are weak. The weather is either kind or cruel. The rock is either solid or chossy. These are all continuums and the likelihood is that life lies somewhere in between. The thing is that regardless of what happens it is pretty evident that the result of any experience is down to the choices you make. There is no point in blaming anyone else. You either trained or you didn’t. You either brought the right clothes or you didn’t. You either made good choices or you didn’t. Isn’t this the core of self-efficacy? I learned more about how to be a functioning human in the outdoors than I did anywhere else. Stripping away the “stuff” of life in a Post Industrial Country seems to be where the “Joy” is found.
This “Joy” comes from feeling like you understand your place in the world. It is the sense of competency that you are equipped to find your own way. It is derived from the ability to take time to look around and just appreciate. It is the result of being present, entirely focused on this moment. It is not needing to think about what has been or what is going to be. It is shaped by gratitude, the appreciation that everything is currently as it needs to be. And here in lies the rub for me. With climbing you teeter on a balance of feeling as though everything is as it needs to be. If the experience is too easy, it is boring and loses your attention. You start comparing it to what you have already experienced or want to experience. If the experience is too difficult then you become fearful and “what ifs” start to take over.
So why am I sharing this in the context of parenting? I believe the single best thing you can do for a child is create a simple life. They have plenty of time to make it messy. There will be abundant opportunities for them to find Czikszentmihalyi’s flow. The optimal balance between skill and challenge levels. In the beginning remove the “stuff” and let them add it slowly when they are ready. Let them figure out how things work by demystifying this whole experience of life.
Our ploy was to model as much of our life on the lifestyles I had seen in developing countries. We wore the child. We co-slept. We only had simple toys, (wooden or cloth and no noise makers). We removed the tv from the house and most important spent as much time out in nature as possible.
How are you going to make life simple?