Lots of people in the world these days, it seems, are heavily scheduled. It comes across as almost a point of pride for people to talk about how busy they are, and I know I’ve felt this too. When I’m busy I feel important, accomplished, proud. This is true, at least, with certain things. With other things I just feel exasperated and unimportant. For example, if I’ve been busy with work meetings and/or clients, that would fit in category number one. If I’ve been busy cleaning up poop all day, that activity falls soundly behind curtain number two.
It’s often true, it seems to me, that those who hyper-schedule themselves also hyper-schedule their kids. When we want to invite “Billy” over for a spontaneous playdate, and he’s got soccer and swimming and jiu-jitsu and gymnastics and tight-rope walking and sword-swallowing and german club, and all of that before dinner, it’s hard to imagine that there would ever be a time when he’d be able to come for an hour to just fart around at our place.
I find myself still trying to figure out what kind of parent I want to be in terms of how I schedule my life and my kids’ lives. I grew up in a family of six kids, and we were very unscheduled, but we had each other, and we had a huge yard. This meant that as a kid a lot of my time was spent up in the trees, or in my imagination. This was wonderful in some ways, but in other ways I think I would have loved to be put in extra-curricular things and encouraged to invest myself in at least one or two of them, just so I could have found out if maybe, just maybe, I was meant to be a soccer player, or a ballerina, or the next Karate Kid, or something. But six kids made for a lot less money for those things, and also not a lot of personal attention from my parents. I was always desperately jealous of only-children as a child, because they always seemed to be the sole, precious focus of their parents’ lives. I know I cannot say with certainty that the only-child’s grass was greener than mine, because, after all, I had lots of playmates as a child and now have many beloved adult siblings, but I still honestly think that the only-child’s grass must have been a TINY bit greener, because with less kids there is more money, you know, for landscaping and fertilizer and fancy sprinkler systems and all of the things one might need to make his or her lawn exceptionally green. But I digress.
Even as I do sometimes hyper-schedule my work life, at home I perhaps err too far on the side of having little-to-no schedule. Sometimes, mind you, I will put my kids in something last-minute, like swimming or dance or music, but as a rule we are pretty non-scheduled around here. We play games, we have dance parties, we do elaborate jokes, we put on performances for each other, we draw pictures, we watch movies, we play computer games, we do elaborate, never-ending treasure hunts that our kids make up, and we do a lot of chase-and-tickle, in which NO ONE is safe, not even the mother who is TRYING to make dinner. We sometimes spend all day in our PJs. We are homebodies, my children, my husband and I. We like doing life in our house, by ourselves, and are often surprised when someone knocks at the door to sell cookies or convert us to Mormonism, because we’re just in our own little world so much that it’s sometimes weird to find out that other people exist. This is why if you knock on the door of our house you should not be surprised if four shocked-looking people appear at the door, one wearing a Batman mask and Princess crown, one with a box on his or her head, one in a full unicorn costume and the other one wearing no pants. We probably did not expect you, but we WELCOME you. Now come in, grab a wand and a pirate hat, and take off your pants.
We also like to take ridonkulous photos of ourselves in Photo Booth, which is definitely not a waste of time, because look how hilarious.
I’m not saying I’m doing life the RIGHT way with my kids; I still have to figure out a better balance, a bit more scheduling and a lot less procrastinating, because I (like many other parents, I think), have total FOMO where my kids are concerned. FOMO (which I know because I just always have my finger on the pulse of youth culture) is like the new “YOLO” – it means “Fear Of Missing Out.” I don’t want my kids to miss out on anything that might enrich their lives, be it swimming, gymnastics, music, or even sword-swallowing. But even greater than my FOMO is my FTMKWLTDN – “Fear That My Kids Won’t Learn To Do Nothing.” That they’ll always feel like they have to DO in order to BE — to be important, be a somebody, be valuable.
So I will work on my scheduling, but I promise you this: within our schedule there will always be a very large space allotted for “nothing time,” AKA “pants-off-pirate-hats” time. Because learning to do gymnastics is important, but so is learning to be a pirate with your pants off. And yes, you can quote me on that.