I’m tired. You’re tired. My husband is tired. My children at 5:30pm? TIRED. How tired are we? So tired that our tired is tired.
Here’s my mom plea: can we all please agree that downtime has incredible value?
I have no memories of participating in organized anything until I was probably 7 or 8 years old. I had a lovely childhood. I remember my mom making worksheets for me (at my request … nerd alert, party of 1) because apparently the workbooks at Walgreens were “too expensive.” I played office and school at my grandparents’ majestic desks, which I thought were just the coolest. I would make up worksheets for my pretend students, and I even went so far as to fill them in and – wait for it – grade them.
I rode my bike through the neighborhood for hours on end. I pretended to be an Olympic gymnast and coordinated floor routines to Be Our Guest from Beauty and the Beast in our backyard. I played with my Magic Copier, and I played on my grandmother’s out of tune piano. I wrote short stories on looseleaf, I picked pecans from the pecan tree and I climbed the magnolia tree to write poetry. That has never been published, but for a hot second I sure thought I was E.E. Cummings. I even removed the “e” from my name for all of 1st grade, likely out of utter boredom. Sometimes I got lost in a book from The Boxcar Children or Baby-sitter’s Club but the vast majority of my childhood, at least as I remember it, was spent immersed in imaginative play. Much of that was outdoors.
Heck, when my grandmother would invite me to her Rummikub party I was excited. I wish I was kidding, but that sounded like a blast after hours of idle play doing a whole lot of nothing. The closest I got to an iPad was a Brother typewriter that my aunt gave me, but even then I used it for my make believe office or to play school. I have absolutely zero idea how I entertained myself at meals in restaurants, but I think it involved a pencil and cocktail napkin and that “dot game,” whatever it was called. There was no iPhone app or device with headphones available.
And I am not so sure that’s a bad thing.
I have no memories of being shuttled from activity to activity. I don’t remember being raced out the door. I have zero recollection of being told to “hurry up” or “we have to get to baseball!” or “we are going to be late!” These are all things I scream at my children way more often than I’d like.
I genuinely feel as though we have lost the art of downtime. Trying to coordinate a dinner with a group of friends feels like an impossibility, as we’re all busy with this or that. “Oh gosh, that night won’t work because PTA meeting, baseball practice, piano recital, dress rehearsal, work event and the school fundraiser. The following is dance and then there’s dinner with the in-laws.” Awesome. Sounds like we’ll chill together in October 2017, then?
I have no solutions, really. I am just a tired mom who knows that everyone around her is often tired as well. I think about our family’s quality of life often, and we participate in virtually zero extracurricular activities. Sometimes when I am chatting with other moms I feel guilty.
Should my 3 year old daughter be in dance?
Why haven’t I taken my almost 2-year-old to mommy and me music class?
Ack – my 5-year-old boy has really played zero organized sports. Will he be at a disadvantage?
Enough is enough. Being bored is okay. Being over-scheduled is stressful. Learning how to just BE with our thoughts is incredibly important. Using your imagination is critical to starting a business. I really worry that my children will have no concept of how to invent their own fun or be creative. If I send them outside, I may get criticized for not being close enough. If they’re indoors, screen time is helping them die a slow death. The thing is that I don’t think I should HAVE to scour Pinterest to create the perfect summer bucket list of activities or stock a “boredom bag” for my children. I don’t buy it. Can’t they just play? I would like nothing more than to sit on my couch and do absolutely nothing. I really fail to see why a 3- or 5-year-old is different.
I am not knocking anyone who loves leading crafts and activities at home, and I am not a lazy parent. I am happy to be involved and help my children pursue their interests and dreams. But to me, in order to be able to explore and dream and create you have to master the art of downtime. Being raced from activity to activity serves no purpose for adults or children other than to exhaust them.
I think we all need to slow down. I am speaking to adults and children alike. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing nothing. In fact, doing nothing may just be the secret to being able to achieve everything.