On Monday, I decided to do a little experiment. My husband and I were taking the children to the park. He and Son E. had plans to fly E.’s new remote-controlled plane, so I knew I’d be the one watching the other three play on the playground. I determined that I was not going to intervene. Before they started playing, I reminded them of some basic playground manners, as my girls can be snobbish if I don’t threaten coach them, etc. But other than that, I decided I was only going to get involved if it was life or death.
This means, naturally, that I did have to scold the toddler with a death wish once or twice. (One cannot learn one’s lesson if one dies in the process of making one’s mistakes.)
I’ve worked on masterly inactivity for a while now, and I think I’ve gotten much better about it. Nevertheless, I was surprised at how many times I had to stop myself from interrupting their play. Going to the park with a friend makes it much easier for me to ignore my children, that is for sure!
I could give a number of illustrations from what I learned by doing this, but I’ll try and restrict myself to one. Q.-Age-Four was trying to get onto a swing. It was a bit too high for her. Normally, I would have seen her struggle and come to rescue her. This time, though, I sat back and watched.
The first time, I saw her cautiously lift herself up into the swing until she was sitting in it upon her knees. Slowly, she stood up. All went well until she tried to lower herself down into the seat to sit in it properly. Instead of hitting the seat, her feet hit the sand!
She didn’t turn to me or ask me for help, though. Instead, she tried a similar version of her first attempt, which went even more poorly, and she ended up actually falling in the sand. It looked painful to me, but she never complained.
She tried a third time. This time, she did the same. She seemed pretty convinced that the problem was her balance and not her methods. And she succeeded! My mother heart was cheering for her, but I kept quiet.
It’s such a little thing, I know, but I did stop and wonder how many little things I might keep my children from learning or discovering or even just imagining by being too helpful.
Want to Go Deep With Masterly Inactivity?
The talk Brandy’s been giving (you already own the video version if you purchased the Leading Well retreat in 2017) is now available in the Afterthoughts Shop. Try masterly inactivity! It’s not a hack — it’s a way of life. ♥
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