January 16, 2009

Down Time

I've suffered a blogging lull. Not that I haven't had much to record, just that the time has been filled with other good things and blogging has been just beyond the tips of my reach for a while.
Some Down Time I suppose you could say. (Well, kind of. In small, chopped up increments.)
Our holidays were good. 16 days of no school for the kids flew by much too fast. There was much coming & going, visitors and visiting. There was family and friends, food and fun.
I thought we'd have more of a lull in activity in January once the weeks of holiday prep and celebrating were done, but the New Year has proven me wrong.
A whole lot more activity has been threaded into the schedule.

In all honesty, I don't like it much. It has me frustrated, being pulled two ways.
I feel like a walking contradiction.
For starters, the season for the school archery program is once again upon us, and while I know it's a good thing to do for some kids, who may not have anything to do after school but play video games... For my kids, I feel like they already spend enough of their young lives at school in the classroom, and I don't really want them there all that much more, surrounded by a lot of extra stuff we'd rather they weren't surrounded by.
I know that same time spent at home could be used in quality ways.
I don't look forward to our evenings being separated, our dinner rushed or divided up.
Mason & Eric are currently in basketball, as well, and to add to it seems too much.
What about home?

I was reading a book recently and happened upon something that talked about just that which was bugging me. Here is just a small part of what I found to be a very worthy read:

"Downtime is where we become ourselves, looking into the middle distance, kicking the curb, lying on the grass or sitting on the stoop and staring at the tedious blue of the summer sky. I don't believe you can write poetry, or compose music, or become an artist without downtime, and plenty of it, a hiatus that passes for boredom but is really the quiet of moving of the wheels inside that fuel creativity.
And that to me, is one of the saddest things about the lives of American children today. Soccer leagues, acting classes, tutors -- the calendar of the average middle class kid is so over-the-top that soon PalmPiolts will be sold at Toys R Us. Our children are as overscheduled as we are, and that is saying something.
This has become so bad that parents have arranged to schedule times for unscheduled time. Earlier this year the privelleged suburb of Ridgewood, NJ, announced a Family Night, when there would be no homework, no athletic practices, and no after-school events. This was terribly exciting until I realized that this was not one night a week, but one single night. There is even a free-time movement and website: Family Life 1st. Among the frequently asked questions provide on line: "What would families do with family time if they took it back?"
Let me make a suggestion for the kids involved: How about nothing? It is not simply that it is pathetic to consider the lives of children who don't have a moment between piano and dance and homework to talk about their day... There is also ample psychological research suggesting that what we might call "doing nothing" is when human beings actually do their best thinking, and when creativity comes to call. Perhaps we are creating an entire generation of people whose ability to think outside the box, as the current parlance of business has it, is being systematically stunted by scheduling. "  (Anna Quindlen)

These words, and some further talk about the "downtime deficit" of today's kids, nailed just what had been driving me nuts.
Our downtime is so important to us. Time to go outside and play. Time to be together. Time that the kids might sometimes find boring, but allows them to read good books, grow their minds, USE their minds. Time that is instilling the values of home & family.

This summer it was so good to have our kids not involved in a single thing other than being kids.
No camps, no clubs, no nothing, and proud of it!
They do enjoy sports, however, and so I understand we will have sports schedules to deal with.
But it still is a battle in my mind about where to draw the line.
Archery is something they can do at home, something they DO do at home. No waiting lines, no traveling, etc. They could shoot twice as much in a quarter of the time. I think it would be better for them to do it at home... but I know it's also important for us to be involved & for Mitch to coach these 30+ other kids... maybe for the greater good of offering other kids something healthy to do as an alternative to tv & gaming, which I do believe is for the betterment of our kids' future society. (in a tiny, tiny, tiny way.)
But I admit it creeps in on my comfort level when we begin juggling, when it infringes on our weekends & evenings, our time to play, visit, fish, have fun, rest.
Maybe I'm just like my dad and do not like much change in habit. :) But values are values.

I do stand strongly behind these thoughts: Down Time is Good.
Doing nothing can be something.
Beau, Johnathan & Lilly...  a winter day of doing "nothing" at home.
Eric, expanding his mind. (that's Ted Nugent he's reading.)
Eric's first speared fish. High quality downtime!


  1. That was excellent reading and food for thought (as are the pics). Do you remember our summers, playing by the river & creek...on some adventure? The words "I'm bored" were rarely said and almost unacceptable!! Saunas on Saturday night, trips (so many!) to the lake, playing with cousins...lots of good conducive downtime!

  2. That was beautiful.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts...

  3. I totally agree with you! It is challenging to find balance in our families and to know when enough is enough.

    I wish you well in finding your balance!

  4. James would like to say, regarding the speared fish: "Snowy."

    Nice work Eric.