Even children are busy now, scheduled down to the half-hour with classes and extracurricular activities. They come home at the end of the day as tired as grown-ups. I was a member of the latchkey generation and had three hours of totally unstructured, largely unsupervised time every afternoon, time I used to do everything from surfing the World Book Encyclopedia to making animated films to getting together with friends in the woods to chuck dirt clods directly into one another’s eyes, all of which provided me with important skills and insights that remain valuable to this day. Those free hours became the model for how I wanted to live the rest of my life. – The Busy Trap, Tim Kreider
It’s funny. I know many 8 year olds who have a busier calendar than I do, my own included. I feel tired just hearing about the extra curricular sports and classes that many are involved in, on top of school and homework. They get home way past the dinner hour only to begin school work, eat a meal, take a quick bath, and hop into bed only to wake up and do it all over again.
Like the article (read it!) above suggests, it’s hip to be busy. You are important if your calendar is jam packed, you’re interesting, you matter. Excessive plans and appointments can be oh so validating. And it’s a feeling we seem to be passing on to our kids. I find myself getting caught up in it at times. When asked by a friend what I was doing on a particular Friday or Saturday night, why did it feel weird to say… nothing?
Let’s be honest. I love doing nothing. I thrive on being home. I am probably one of the most motivated homebodies you’ll ever meet. I’m not lazy or boring or dull because of it. Having time and space to shut out the world a bit and think is what I seem to crave more than anything else. I am ok with it being just us – or even, just me. I enjoy calm.
And that – the art of just being – is what can be lost today. See, I feel you are doing something right if your kid says “I’m bored” when I know that many would be sent into a panic. “Who can I call to play, what Pinterest craft can I set up on the table right now, what class can I sign them up for,” and so on. Not here. You’re bored? Go outside and build a fort. Play with your brother, read a chapter in a book that you want to read, not one your teacher is making you read. Bored is good. Bored yields creativity.
We have a rule with L when it comes to activities. Now that baseball and football have morphed into a pretty serious commitment (3 months each sport, 3-4 times a week), we tackle one sport at a time. That’s it. We control his calendar, not him, and he’s always been very good about that. He’s allowed one other activity, which is typically church class. The rest of the time he is at home. When asked why he wasn’t doing Fall baseball (he loves baseball!) on top of football since it’s “only once a week” my answer was “because we want to be home.” One or two football games a weekend is plenty, thank you.
Call us lazy. Call us crazy. Call us unmotivated. I highly doubt I’m depriving the world of the next Ryne Sandberg because L skipped a mere season of Fall baseball or didn’t attempt travel ball at the age of 8. What I hope I’m raising for the world is a kid with an imagination. A kid who plays. A kid who is outside, often unsupervised, for hours at a time. He’s figuring things out on his own, outside of the structure of school, activities, and parents. No one is telling him what to do, wear, rush off to. There are key social skills to be learned out in the yard. He’s often being a leader (or being challenged as one) in the neighborhood pack. Does he mess up? Heck yes. That’s a part of it all.
For now, little B is just tagging along to L’s calendar, yet he’s already pushing limits out in the yard just like L used to do. And I love it. I know one day he’ll be old enough to join sports and we will feel twice as busy and yet even then, it will be manageable because we’ve laid the groundwork for it to be so. We feel, for our family, we’ve struck the perfect balance of work (school), dedication (sports), and play. It’s a formula that may not work for all, but we’re certainly glad we’ve chosen it because, well, the time at home together is… precious.