The Art of Doing Nothing

I had a boss once who infuriated me with his inaction.  A problem would arise, a crisis by my measure, and he’d do nothing.  He would wait. He would listen. He’d go for a walk. But he wouldn’t act. I’d roll up my sleeves ready to put out the fire with my bare hands and watch him walk away.  It took me much too long to realize that most of the problems worked themselves out. All that was needed was time. It was an important lesson for my young hot-headed I-know-everything self.  It’s helped me a lot in my parenting, too, when I’m patient enough to remember the art of doing nothing.

You may remember that Piper isn’t a fan of school.  In fact, she hates it.  The play part works for her. Snack time is good stuff.  Books are okay.  It’s just that when her teachers ask her to do something, like write her name, there is grand resistance.  If you need a refresher on the name writing saga, read this post: A Piper By Any Other Name.  Just before the end of the year holidays, her teachers asked me to come in for a conference regarding Piper’s “lack of academic progress.” Do I need to remind you that we’re talking about a four-year-old? A Piper, nonetheless? I went. It was ugly. The teachers disagreed about what was developmentally appropriate.  Their message was incoherent.  Piper couldn’t write her name.  I got that, but I didn’t get what I was supposed to do about it. Drill and skill? It’s not us. They recommended private tutoring and early intervention. I didn’t see what we were intervening on. I teach college.  I truly know very little about how to teach preschoolers anything.  I did the one thing I’m really good at: worry.  I worried a lot, but other than that, I did very little.  I didn’t work with Piper on her name.  I didn’t shame her.  I said some encouraging words, hugged her really tight, and sent her out to play.  My gut just didn’t indicate crisis yet.  I did nothing.

Guess what Piper brought home today?

Her first certificate!  It’s official. Piper can write her name.  And she did it all by herself.  It’s her victory not mine. My worrying didn’t seem to contribute at all. I still do it, of course, but maybe I should do nothing a lot more, too.

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6 thoughts on “The Art of Doing Nothing

  1. “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”

    Good job, Piper! 🙂

  2. This reminds me of a scene from Uncle Buck (well, everything reminds me of a scene from Uncle Buck, possibly the greatest John Hughes movie of them all, but I digress.) It’s when UB goes to the conference with his niece’s asst. principal where he is told that his kindergarten-aged niece “takes nothing in her academic career seriously.” And he comments back that he doesn’t want to know a child who takes her academic career seriously. There is so much truth to this. Unless there is a major problem, kids should just be allowed to develop in their own time. Piper is a fantastic example of how, when you let them, they will come into themselves. Without tutoring. Without chiding. Just with patience and love ❤

    • Isn’t that baby here yet? Aren’t you ready for the roller coaster of parenting? I’m grateful for your digression. Uncle Buck is brilliant. I think we should all take parenting advice from Uncle Buck. I have college students who still send their essays home to their parents each week. My goal is to avoid proofreading my twenty-year-old’s homework and to know when to panic and when to let be. Piper seems just fine with me as a wing man.

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