A while back my mom told me about her friend’s son who had entered his school science fair. His experiment was the classic “mouse in a maze” test. The subjects: three mice. The test: going through the maze. The variable: music. For an extended period of time before the experiment, mouse number one listened to heavy metal, the second mouse listened to classical, and the third was left in silence. My freshman year in college I took a humanities class from Michael Ballam. If you are familiar with opera or LDS culture, his name might ring a bell. I spent the semester falling deeply in love with classical music and learning of the amazing benefits of it, so naturally I was sure I knew how the science experiment turned out. “Of course the classical mouse did best! Right, Mom?” She went on to tell me the results.
The heavy metal mouse was a mess. He ran around the maze so confused and totally wild. To my shock, the classical mouse did only slightly better. It was the silence that won. The mouse who sat in silence navigated the maze flawlessly.
But that wasn’t where the story ended. After the maze experiment, all the mice were placed in a box and everyone left the room. When they came back a while later, the heavy metal mouse had killed and was EATING the other mice!
Over the years as a mom I’ve had uncertainties. Who really was playing with the Lego penguin first, if allowing my kids to eat a cookie at 5 will ruin their appetite for dinner at 6, if that bonk on the head deserves a doctor’s check or if mom’s hug and kiss will suffice. But the one that has been the most challenging for me is how much time is healthy for my children to be spending away from home in extra-curricular activities.
Some of my favorite moments with my kids have always been trips to the library, picnics at the park, playing with friends, going to children’s museums, swimming lessons…all of what you might consider the “classical music” type activities. Important, wonderful, enriching. But what I’ve discovered over the years is that we need those silent moments. Those days at HOME. Just us, just being together, nothing busy, nothing complicated. I know as an introvert and a home-body my children and I might need that more frequently than many of our friends. But I really believe all of us need that time. And I’m afraid it’s a need that often gets overlooked.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” -Leonardo Da Vinci
I trust that few parents would ever expose their children to “heavy metal” type activities. If they did, Who knows! The results just might be as horrific as the mouse after the maze (heaven forbid!). But I know I have on occasion let life get too busy doing good activities and thinking they are what is best for my kids.
In our efforts to be good parents, to provide our children with ample opportunities, to make sure they’re smart, athletic, well-rounded, socially adjusted, have a plethora of friends, and happy, I hope we can remember that home is just as (or more) important as any museum, any soccer field, any dugout, any library. Those are great. I love those places! They are important. But do we, just as I did in assuming that the classical mouse would win because I’ve been taught classical music is so beneficial to all aspects of life, assume that we must fill every second of our children’s days with those extra-curricular things for them to reach their amazing potential? I’m completely convinced that those quiet times at home are vital to all aspects of their growth.
Remember the quiet moments. Don’t take them for granted. There really and truly is no place like home!
“…we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most.” -Dieter F. Uchtdorf