I was at my daughter’s gymnastics class, and it happened to be a “fun” day. There weren’t enough kids to join into the parachute game, so they asked the kids who were watching to join in. There were a number of kids, just sitting there with us adults in the freezing cold gymnastics room, and I thought, “Wow, just watch them run up and join in!” I couldn’t believe it, not one child took the chance to jump in and have fun! You know what they were doing? Playing on iPads and mobile phones!
“Well”, I thought,”maybe they are just shy and a bit hesitant”, and fair enough, it was early, and it is a bit daunting to just join into a group where you don’t really know anyone, but after a while of watching, it looked like so much fun that even I wanted to have a go! Yes, I can be that embarrassing mum who would give it a shot if given the chance! I looked around thinking, anytime now, at least one of these kids is going to jump up and join in. The atmosphere was filled with colours, bouncy balls, a huge parachute floating around everywhere and the sounds of squealing and laughter, just kids having fun. But when I turned to look to see which kids were catapulting out of their seat to join in, I saw that the kids in the crowd were so absorbed in their electronics that they didn’t even realise what was going on around them. And sadly, neither did their parents. Some parents were so entrenched in their own mobile phones that they forgot to watch their own kids, who were part of the gymnastics class, have fun and just enjoy the moment. I saw so many little eyes look back at their parents to see their reaction when they did something awesome, and then I saw their little faces turn away in disappointment because mum or dad missed it. They missed it when their child had a go at running under the parachute or jumping on top of it in the middle of the bouncy balls, they missed the moment, the fun, the laughter, the shared excitement which they could have spoken about all the way home in the car, and then again at lunch and then again at bedtime! (You know how it goes!). They missed it, not just once, or twice (like we all can), but way too many times. And, it didn’t stop there, these parents were also not encouraging their other kids who were watching, to just drum up a bit of confidence, not let insecurities win, and just join in and see that by giving something a go, you can end up having a heap of fun and enjoying a great experience.
My question is, how can we expect our kids to grow up with confidence and independence if we can’t bring ourselves to teach them that they need to be part of a moment and take it all in, and enjoy it for what it’s worth? That they need to interact with their environment and allow themselves to experience what it has to offer. This is how they broaden their knowledge and stimulate their senses in an effort to create an internal will and depth of understanding that will help them reach their full potential. Hiding behind a phone, iPad, whatever, takes them away from life. Just life. All the moments, interactions and fun that create lasting memories of their childhood and gives them the qualities to grow into well rounded, functioning adults who can adequately handle themselves in any social situation, and who are not scared to speak to people and be a part of the wonderful phenomenon that we call the human race.