While walking back to our holiday cottage in Cornwall last week, I was chatting to Alice about the horses in the field. She was clearly very excited to see them, and I casually asked "Do you like horses?" She didn't reply. It's not the first time. She's a chatty little girl, but she has never replied to a question about her preferences. I started thinking about the way toddlers view the word, and realised that they live in an eternal present. They simply experience what goes on around them without weighing it up against previous encounters. To say we like or don't like something requires that you compare it with other times we've experienced it. It's a developmental stage that is still ahead of Alice.
I tried to imagine what life would be like if you live completely in the moment. You would become mindful of what was around you. I've often been amazed at the tiny things Alice spots or faint sounds she hears that are just background noise for me. I think this is because toddlers minds aren't clouded by the countless thoughts that whirr around an adult's head. I don't think it is sustainable, or even desirable for an adult to constantly live in the moment in the same way, but taking time to experience the world like a child for short periods would be very liberating.
Taking my daughter as my teacher, I've been trying to really sense what goes on around me. To throw myself into our games without planning how they'll end up, thinking about when to put dinner on, or worrying about what other people might be thinking. I aim to enjoy time with my daughter without comparing her to her past self, or thinking about what will happen as she grows up. I hope it demonstrates to her that I value her play. Even the short periods I manage to spend in this way act like little calm oases, reinvigorating me to take on the rest of the day.