Posted by: Diane | December 1, 2012

“Outside Of The Box” Thinking

I was all ready to go to Toastmasters this week but apparently, the roads up north were very slippery, so the President of our club cancelled the meeting.

I was disappointed because I had given some thought to the evening’s Table Topic – “thinking outside of the box” and I was looking forward to telling a cool story.  Oh well… I can use that idea another time.  However, it did remind me of a “thinking outside of the box” experience that got me in a lot of trouble. The word means “to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective… to look further then the obvious and go beyond.”

Yes, I definitely went beyond.

I was a young, stay-at-home mom with three children and I was going a bit stir crazy in the house. I was thinking of enrolling my three young children into some kind of program but money was tight and I wanted to be with them, so I decided to create a program and teach it too. Very ambitious, don’t you think? – kill two birds with one stone.  I have no idea where this naive confidence and “outside of the box” thinking came from but like I said, it was a cold February and I didn’t want to be stuck in the house all the time.

Once the children went down for naps, I started brainstorming. Within a couple of weeks, I had created a twelve week curriculum that I called, “BRING, SING and FLING.”  The idea was that each week, a new theme was explored. The children would bring an item related to the theme, tell a story about it, sing songs that had to do with that theme and creatively move (fling) in ways that were related to the theme.  For example, if the theme was about sports, all the children had to bring a sports item and tell a little story about it, we would sing songs about sports and then we would have fun pretending and doing all kinds of sport movement.

Well, let me tell you – this class was a BIG hit. Success came quickly and furiously.  I had no trouble “selling” the idea to a local community centre and when I arrived the first day with my arms full of equipment, music and three children, there were twenty five more children, waiting to play with me. From the get-go, we all had a wonderful time together, the moms started helping out in the class and new children kept coming. I finally had to cap the class at forty. The community center asked if I would start more classes and wanted to hire me as the official children’s program coordinator. I was also asked to consider creating teaching courses about creative movement.

I was overwhelmed with the endless opportunities. One morning, I confided in a friend and while doing so, burst into tears. I will never forget what she said to me.

“Diane, keep the main thing the main thing.”

I realized that I had became so busy preparing classes, creating songs, coming up with new themes and conversing with parents that I virtually had no time to just hang out with my own children – which defeated the whole purpose for starting the class in the first place! Being with my children was no longer the “main thing.”

The next morning, while I was teaching one of the classes, my daughter walked up to me and pulled at my T-shirt. I crouched down to see what was wrong. She took my face in her hands and looked straight at me, with tears running down her little cheeks.   “Mommy, I miss you.”

That was my decisive moment.

It was time to pull back and figure out how and when I lost sight of the main thing.

“Outside of the box” thinking is all well and good – it’s wonderful to view things more expansively – but sometimes, the things inside the box are there for a reason. My children were inside the box and at that time in my life, I needed to be there too.


  1. Tears. This is precious. Thank you for your honest perspective.

  2. Diane,
    Well said. When I was home with 4 children under 5 1/2 years old, it was a good box, with the fatigue and soul-searching that goes with any “stretching” life experience. In retrospect, the memory is always sweet!
    Our culture does not deal well with the reality of seasons, physical or stage-of-life ones. We moan about summer heat waves, and complain about winter snowfalls. Bless the farmers. When it’s time to plant, they plant, and when it is time to harvest, they harvest. They have much to teach us.
    As my spiritual director says: “This moment is perfect.” Indeed, it is all we have.

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