We had a lovely week long vacation in Vancouver. It was so nice to get away! We did so many cool things that only a big city can provide. We visited The Vancouver Aquarium, walked in the rain in Stanley Park, witnessed the hustle and bustle of big city living, explored an indoor rainforest, ate delicious ethnic food, and experienced the wonders of Science World. We were lucky enough to have my amazing and awesome sister recently move to Vancouver so we had a free place to lay our heads and the hospitality of someone who loves us!
It was on our first day at Science world where I had another parenting revelation.
The boys were having a great time exploring all of the hands-on exhibits. Lan, who is now 6, moved at a slower pace than Kayden, who at four still has a short attention span. In order to have a good flow to our day Mike and I traded off being with each child so that they could explore at their own pace. We would stay in the same exhibit space as a family but Kayden would go around in a whirlwind while Lan would spend time at each station and explore in more depth.
Then Lan discovered the water table exhibit. It was a long structure with water being pumped through it and you could use plastic blocks and walls to damn and divert the flow of water.
I sat back to watch him play and experiment.
Twenty minutes later I was ready to move on. I tried to divert his attention to all the other really cool things around him. Didn’t he want to see something else now?
No, he said. He was still playing with this.
I sat down again and started to really observe not only Lan but the other children as well.
There were the younger children with their parents (and a lot with what appeared to be nannies). They were running from station to station…sometimes because they had the same attention span as Kayden and sometimes because their parents/caregivers where ushering them on to the next thing.
Then there were the kids in daycares wearing their orange or pink vests (they looked like construction workers!) It reminded me of a tour group, all of them wearing an identifiable vest so as not to be left behind! They were being herded through just as tour group would with only about two minutes per station.
And then there were the school age kids. They were all easily identifiable by the sheet of paper they were carrying. Oh, how I remember those sheets of paper! You know the ones that you have to fill in to “prove” that you learned something. They were running around the place looking for answers on a worksheet to get a good mark.
And then there was Lan, playing at the water table.
Why did I feel the need to rush him? Why did I feel that we needed to see each and every exhibit?
And then I realized it was because that was all I knew. That was how I had been trained! I had done hundreds of those field trip worksheets in my school years. I remember being frantic at finding all the answers with the hopes that I could find them all and still have enough time to play before getting back on the bus. And now when I go through a place, be it Science World or a museum I find it hard to take my time. I want to run through it and see it all quickly.
And what if I take my time and miss out on something spectacular? We don’t want that now do we?
I let Lan play. He was at that water table for at least an hour and he left it when he was ready. That night when we all talked about our favourite part of the day the water table was his.
The next day we went back and he spent another hour on it. But this time I didn’t feel the need to rush him. I rejoiced that we had the time to let him explore something that had so obviously intrigued him.
And I wonder what lesson he would have taken with him if I had succeeded in my initial attempt to rush him. Would it be that we always have to check to see if there is something better around the corner? To rush through things? To not pay attention to the present moment?