Last night I went to a lovely garden party. I decided to leave an adult conversation to spend time toddler watching. I crossed the grass to find the cute 15 month old toddler I was looking for sitting in the grass examining clover, leaves and sticks.
I sat down in a chair next to her parents at a table nearby. When she looked over at me, I either smiled or waved. After a while she toddled over to share her discoveries with her mother. Her mother put out her hand and her daughter deposited two squished up clover flowers from her tightly closed tiny hand. She then removed the flowers from her mother’s hand and made it clear that she wanted to put them into my hand.
She went back and forth for a while moving the flowers from her mother’s hand to mind and back again. I responded by counting the flowers, talking about them and smelling them. After a while she grabbed my finger and started pulling me to get up. As I stood, she used her other hand to point in the direction she wanted to go. I willingly complied.
I followed her to a group of sand chairs on the lawn that had been abandoned by adults in favor of tables for eating dinner. We spent about 20 minutes together with her using my hand as a stabilizer to get in and out of each and every chair in the circle.
She visited some of the chairs multiple times. The variety of chairs presented a variety of obstacles for her to overcome. Interestingly, she chose the difficult ones more often than those she could easily get into. I cheered her on. I was there with her, but only provided support when she reached out for it.
I labeled her actions with words as she made great efforts. Occasionally I pointed out things I saw such as sticks, leaves, colors on the chairs, the way the chairs felt, the amount of bounce they had and even a small plastic dinosaur hidden in the grass. I labeled her actions as she put the dinosaur on or in things. I followed her lead when she was delighted to walk through the opening between two chairs. She went through with delight and then I did the same while talking about going through. We smiled and laughed. She made lovely sounds and I mimicked them to the best of my ability.
My interactions with her were the best part of the evening. She was delightful and fun. She reminded me about the basics, the simplicity of connecting. She brought to light where I first learned to lead from behind. It was through similar experiences with my own children. The experience made me think. Leading from behind is natural. It is not a technique. It is a way of being. It is respectful and has no room for forcefulness. It is gentle and loving and comes from the heart. Leading from behind grows discovery and learning.