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SPACE… THE FINAL FRONTIER Brendan Carroll Principal, Pinehurst Primary School

Einstein is credited as once saying: “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”


We live in a fast-paced, adrenalin-filled world where it is desirable to have more, do more and to generally be busy. ‘Busy’ is a status symbol. People are afraid of missing out and seemingly also afraid of finding themselves in a place of spaciousness and solitude – after all, what would you do? This lifestyle is filtering down to our children, causing levels of stress that have not been seen before. If your busyness and devices are making you feel like you’ve lost your child, then perhaps it’s time to simplify. Make space, breathe and create.


The human body has not changed physiologically to keep up with the developments in technology. We still need the same nutrition, exercise, rest and number of hours sleep that our ancestors did 2 000 years ago. Before the advent of electricity, people went to bed when it became dark and woke up when the sun rose. Now with artificial light and the global village in constant chatter across the internet, we are able (and sometimes expected) to work 24 / 7. Remember when shops closed at lunchtime on a Saturday and opened again on a Monday?


We all flourish when we have time and space to examine, explore and interact with our world without the pressures of “excess and clutter”. This can be in the form of excess: choices, information, belongings, activities or deadlines. Our children are hurrying from one (often good) activity to the next without having time to take stock,

appreciate or just play and be children. What starts out as a genuine attempt to enrich our children’s lives can end up as activity-overload and over-stimulation. ‘Boredom’ can be a good thing. Most times it indicates a spacious place and can be overcome with a bit of thought, initiative and creativity.


A few years ago my wife and I embarked on an interesting exercise of de-cluttering the stuff which we owned. The questions we asked were along the lines of: “How often do we use this?” and, “Can we do without this?” It is amazing how much you can get rid of and the physical space it creates. In the same way we as parents can simplify our children’s routines and excess toys. As we decrease the number of toys our children play with, we increase their attention and capacity to play more meaningfully. Too much stuff results in a superficiality in the way that our children see and explore their worlds.


When thinning out toys, focus on keeping a mix that seem to keep your children engaged for long periods of time. These are often simple ‘open ended’ toys such as building blocks, cars or dress-up items for fantasy play. During the sorting process, throw in some rope, cardboard boxes and other items which can be transformed into a fort, truck, doll's house or whatever the play requires. Many so-called educational toys can be useful but

they can also suppress creative thought as there is often only one ‘correct’ answer or outcome to the activity.


The reality is that we have to live and parent with a conscious intentionality to simplify and create space - or it won’t happen. This is a work in progress and can’t be done instantly. Habits take time to form and new habits therefore also take time to reform. It’s not easy to change things when it seems as if your family’s on a fast-moving vehicle. Start by visualising what you would like your life to look like and then begin making small changes. When I think back over my life it is the feelings, places, smells, people, hugs and laughs that I cherish and remember fondly – not the things I acquired or the status I have achieved in the eyes of others.


Bruce Fordyce once said of the Comrades Marathon: “The most important step is the first step.” The same applies in this process. Be true to our families’ values and needs before we capitulate to the world’s demands and pressures. Let us keep life simple and real. 

September 2019 | the muse | 4

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the Muse - Sep 2019  

The Pinelands community magazine in Cape Town, South Africa

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The Pinelands community magazine in Cape Town, South Africa

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