Previously, I have focused my writings on actually enjoying what one does and how important that is in therapy. This week I thought I would go back to one of my own daily stories about this. I very recently began a new summer contract with preschool children with special needs. I knew before arriving that this age and population would be fun and familiar. I had so much fun that I took up twice the amount of time I was originally supposed to and had no idea until I went back to my car. I was completely in the moment, the kids were very attentive, and the staff enjoyed interacting along with the kids. As I was getting ready to leave the final group, a little boy asked me, “Do you have to go back to work now?” To which I chuckled and replied, “Yes, I do.” After my last couple of articles, this coincidental comment was very timely. Yes, the job that I had been paid to do was over and it was time to get back to work. Go back out into the heat, deal with the foreign traffic on this part of 81 with my malfunctioning air conditioner, and get back to work. However, my job, the one that I had been contracted to do, had left me feeling more energized upon completion than when I had started. I came in with a general plan, but tweaked it to fit the immediate needs and motivations that I observed. My focus and enjoyment on what I was doing caused me to forget, stay in the moment, and lose track of time. I went beyond what I had been asked to do.
Someone had posed the question about fun and the need for discipline in one of my recent articles. In other words, what happens to the things kids need or have to learn, but do not want to? My answer to this was something to the effect of when day-to-day life is already a challenge, beginning at a place where the child is focused is one less stress-producing stimulus and eventually may be something the child continues on his or her own. When most everything is a challenge, is learning to be disciplined in pursuit necessary?
This made me think of another personal story. One year, when my kids were in high school, we were on our way to some relatives house. I don’t remember what started the conversation, but I do remember my oldest son saying, “How is it that every time you tell us to clean the bathroom, you make it sound like the most exciting thing we could possibly do?” In our house, this is a necessary life skill. Did the boys ever learn to love doing it? Most likely not, but practice does endow some improvement. This skill was not stretching anyone’s abilities, but rather their preferences. However, the regular discipline of this earned my younger son a compliment from management at his first job, to which my son replied, “You can thank my mother.”
How much better can our disciplined occupations be if they are things we go and do because they are pleasurable and satisfying? How much better can they be if we want to do them over and over again until we have achieved a new level? Then, because of the confidence that arises from our success, our eagerness to practice even more also rises. We all have skills that come easily, skills that we are good at and enjoy. All the skills we develop from childhood naturally were practiced before they were mastered because there was something satisfying in doing them. If we can attune ourselves to watch what pulls another’s attention and facilitate that, we have taken the struggle out of discipline. Those who have learned from life that it’s too hard”, may find it is just what they are good at. They just need a different angle from which to begin.
Antoinette Morrison MT-BC