Recent research shows that experiences of “awe” are highly important for us, in helping us improve our well-being, manage stress, and better understand ourselves. Usually, we think of awe–a feeling of reverence, and wonder–as something that comes to us on exotic vacations, watching the sunset, or the Aurora Borealis, or standing at the top of a mountain, looking out. But what if awe were a skill we could cultivate, in part through parenting?
As I know, through getting two kids ready in the mornings, parenting is at times the opposite of an “awe-inducing” experience. From feeding morning bottles to figuring out where the two “Wednesday” socks are (while questioning what prompted us to buy socks with days of the week), it can at times feel that we are rushed and on autopilot, trying only to get out the door. But, at the same time, there are moments when we have enough time to slow down, and watch our baby fall asleep slowly, on the second morning bottle of milk, or the five-year-old watch him carefully, making sure he’s comfortable, on the swing.
Researchers consider awe as something that’s both relational—that is, caught up with other people, in social experiences—and annihilational—that is, showing us how small we actually are, in the universe. In this sense, experiences of awe often help our egos dissolve, and make us feel that we’re “one with the world.” In this way, raising children can open us up to having moments of awe, if we can take the time to find and cultivate them.
These moments can be seen, if we pay attention and wait for them, as jumps in children’s development—for instance, the moment we see the baby moving from stumbling to grabbing, or from putting something in his mouth to looking at it. Or they can be seen as changes our own behaviors or reactions—as we learn, for instance, to wait a bit longer as the baby tries to crawl, rather than giving into the urge to help.
What can we do to help find these moments of awe in our daily lives? Some initial tips:
- Be on the lookout for ways to get out in nature.
Research shows that getting out in nature matters for our well-being, both for kids and for adults. Whether it’s something simple, like going to the park after work, or more complex, like the mountains or beach, we can start to make our daily lives, and our kids, more primed for experiences where we lose sight of routines and start to “flow.”
- Create structures for “tuning out.”
This may be a simple ritual, such as turning off phones and TVs one morning to focus on everything “non-technology.” Even starting small can help us realize how much we unconsciously rely on technology to structure our daily lives.
- Look for “micro-moments” as chances to see anew.
This may be something as basic as taking the time to really look at the baby as we’re feeding him, watching his patterns, and thinking about which parent he’s more like. Or it might mean finding moments where two kids are learning to interact, and watching them get into the flow. In either case, we don’t need expensive trips or long getaways. Rather, the day-to-day moments can act as small moments for awe, if we can take the time to look.