Friday, May 1, 2009

White Space in Life

Recently, I came across wonderful advice for all of us who are raising children. I often wonder as a parent if I am doing the right things for my children, which I realize is something we all worry about from time to time. We want our children to have the advantages that many activities both in school and outside of school bring. However, as noted in an article by Johann Christoph Arnold, there is an important part of childhood that involves just being a child without any time restraints and structure.

While I never understood it as a child, I have come to appreciate the words of wisdom from my own mother. I desperately wanted to be a Brownie, but I also took piano lessons. The piano lessons of course required a commitment to practice each day in addition to the time for the lesson itself. As I begged to do both, my mother laid down her law, “you can do one activity at a time outside of school, the other time is important time for you to enjoy without having to be somewhere”. I truly appreciate that comment now.

Arnold puts this idea into a beautiful concept of “white space”. He writes,

"As an author I became aware, after completing my first book, of something I had never noticed previously: the importance of white space. White space is the room between the lines of type, the margins, extra space at the beginning of a chapter, a page left blank at the beginning of the book. It allows the type to "breathe" and gives the eye a place to rest. White space is not something you're conscious of when you read a book. It is what isn't there. But if it were gone, you'd notice it right away. It is the key to a well-designed page.

Just as books require white space, so do children. That is, they need room to grow. The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu reminds us that “it is not the clay the potter throws that gives the jar its usefulness, but the space within.” Our tendency to overbook children, emotionally and time-wise, robs them of the space and flexibility they need to develop at their own pace. They need stimulation and guidance, but they also need time to themselves. Hours spent alone in daydreams or quiet, unstructured activities instill a sense of security and independence and provide a necessary lull in the rhythm of the day.”

As we enter the end of the school year and summer vacation, I hope that you will take time to be sure that you and your child have some “white space”. We all, adults and children alike, need that time that keeps us replenished for our busy lives.

To read the full article: