I heard this word a few months ago from an educator talking about how some children think, and even sometimes if we adults slow down, how we can think. As I see it, flow is giving your brain permission to have periods of distraction-free, unguided thinking and doing. I think kids, not yet programmed to time constraints and deadlines, probably fall into flow easier than adults.

I sometimes see Will and Liam go into flow-mode at home on the weekends. I used to worry a little with Will when I saw him sitting quietly, solemnly on the couch, just staring into space. He didn’t look happy, so I would try to implement my “make the baby happy” routine with little success. Then I heard about this flow thing, so I changed my approach with Will during one of these moments.

Me: “What are you thinking about?” Will: “Rockets.” Me: “Is it good?” Will: A slow nod. A slow blink. A slow turn of his head toward me. And a reply, “It’s fantastic.” And then I backed away, I took my toes and my fingers out of his flow. Later, whoosh! He flew into the kitchen, “Mom, I need a paper towel tube and some string.” And with that came the homemade rocketry project.

For Liam, his imagination and actions work hand in hand. If he sat still on a couch for 15 minutes staring into space, I would immediately feel his forehead to check for a fever. He has fallen head over heels in love with hand-held electronic games. He can sit for great spans of time, eyes locked onto the screen. I watch, imagining brain cells silently leaved his body through his ears. Will can play with these things for a half hour and then not touch them for a week. Not so with Liam. I wish putting a timer on would easily solve his little addiction. The problem is that our attempts to transition to another activity, such as getting dressed or eating dinner, end with tantrums. Including words that are against house rules. Last Friday, with steam coming out of my ears, and a probably a few brain cells, I told him all electronics were gone for a week. I boxed everything up and hid the box in Will’s room. To get Liam out of the house and into the van that morning, Bill told him he could have the hand-held in the future. This was a day or two after he and Will had had a great “play date” with Liam’s teacher. Liam gleefully agreed to be buckled into the van, then said, “So, are we going to my teacher’s house or to the future?” I told him we were going to the near-term future: school.

Sunday morning when Liam asked for a hand-held, I brought out the big book of Curious George. Liam perched next to me under a fleece blanket, and we read 307 pages of Curious George adventures. Flow. When I physically couldn’t read any longer, we flipped back to the illustration of how Curious George made boats out of newspaper. We made four and took two to our sleeping buddies upstairs. Intrigued, Will came downstairs and started a newspaper boat factory. It was in operation all day. Flow. Meanwhile, Liam built a pirate ship in the kitchen, constructed a fort in the toy room, and set-up shop with a Play-doh table, also in the kitchen. He rotated between these zones all day. Flow.

By late afternoon, we couldn’t walk without stumbling on a plank from the pirate ship or getting caught up in string attached to twenty boats sailing through the house. From outside looking in, it looked like a tornado had ripped through our house. From the inside… flow.

Staying strong and enjoying flow in the wee hours of the morning,