Take one sunny day
One new bucket of sidewalk chalk
One long jump rope
Four perfect hopscotch stones
Add songs from childhood
Feel free to experiment with this part and make up some songs, too much silliness will not spoil this recipe
Marinate slowly for several hours, the recipe takes time to develop fully
Alternate periods of physical activity with laying in the grass looking at the clouds
Sprinkle generously with laughter
Listen more than you speak. Kiss more than you are kissed. Breathe deeply.
Italian Ice with a little wooden spoon optional, but highly recommended
The recipe is a success when a small child proclaims it the bestest day ever.
How often do we spend our weekends running with our children from one activity to another, in the name of enriching their little lives? Birthday parties, baseball games, soccer, art lessons, music lessons, and on and on... Each of these things is valuable on it's own; who doesn't want a well rounded child, but I have to wonder what price our children pay for such scheduled lives. Saying no when your child expresses an interest in an activity is difficult. Trust me, I know. And summer vacation in recent years has seemed like weekends magnified.
But what I have found over the past 11 plus years of being a parent is that down time is equally as important. Perhaps even more so. Time just spent together with your child or children. Time that has no agenda, no demands, no commitments. In a world where we are constantly on the go and in search of new best thing for our children, time is the most elusive thing. Time spent doing one thing is time that can never be re-spent doing something else. We had better make sure it counts.
I talk with other mothers and we all lament that our kids are so busy. They don't have time to simply be. Time to discover themselves in a way that can only happen when there are no activities to run back and forth to, when boredom has the opportunity to exist. I firmly believe that boredom is a good thing. Yet opting out of the rat race is difficult, and we worry that somehow our children will miss out.
Even so, this year I am giving my children the gift of time. The gift of entire days stretched out before them, end to end, the limitlessness of possibilities, hours filled with nothing more pressing than a leisurly stroll to the library. And like most good gifts, my children probably won't appreciate it as much now as they will later.
And so when friends are discussing the various camps, sports clinics, and lessons that their kids will be partaking in this summer, I will simply nod and smile, imagining our days spent lounging on the front porch swing, picnicking high up in a tree fort, and building sand castles at the beach. If pressed, I will say, "Oh we have no elaborate plans this year. We're just going to have a lazy, boring summer."
And I wish the same for you.
Chris is a writer, artist, wife and the mother of seven children. She lives in an historic old house in New England that is perpetually under renovations.