The importance of time at home with nothing to do
Well that’s the second week after half term done and the lazy mornings and long slow days on the beach already feel a distant memory. That’s 10 weeks since the end of the summer holidays and the simple pleasures of just being, of spending time as a family with no-where to go and no timetable to stick to, feel imagined and out of reach.
Not for the first time I find myself sharing nostalgic sighs with other mums longing for the next school holiday, so we can pause again and share time, just time, with our children and families.
Time when we strip things back to basics, when we look inwards, shunning company to renew and regenerate. Complete in our own family units, tight and strong together. Absolutely ourselves and absolutely enough.
So once again I find myself wondering why is it that we allow our lives to become so hectic? Why do we insist on ramming our schedules so full of activities, clubs, play dates, piano lessons, coffees, nights out, extra swimming lessons, when all that we really long for is down time together at home?
Even the thought of our full weeks towards Christmas leave me exhausted and already counting the days down to the last day of school. And I know I am not alone, as we all plot and plan our holidays, for half term, for Easter, for May, for summer. Each of us wishing our time away.
And I wonder too about the impact on our children. What lessons does it teach them? What about the importance of play, of time with siblings, of time to be bored? It cannot be without reason that most Sundays our children only want to stay home and have no desire for a fun day out. They need time in their nest, time to rest.
Yet we all defend our crazy timetables on the basis that the children want to do everything – they want to do ballet, gymnastics, tennis, swimming, history club, football, piano, flute, beavers and of course if they then ask to do horse riding, who are we to deny them?!
But who is the grown up in the relationship?! Isn’t it our job to defend the importance of rest and allow our children to experience the peace and joy of being and quietude? If we teach them that it is normal to always be busy, over-stretched, over stimulated even at the precious ages of 4, 6 and 7, then what sense of perverted normality will this foster in their lives as young adults and their ideas of success and achievement? When there is a growing unease at the pressures of the education system with its merciless testing and benchmarking of our infants and its effect on their mental health, why do we not recognise that we might be adding to the pressure on them with our own desire to give them everything? In a world where wellness, yoga and meditation are the buzz words of our years, how are we neglecting to pass these messages and their motivations to our children?
There is an increasing awareness that we as a race are on the path to burnout and a growing desire that we all learn to thrive and not just strive. Let’s not let our children get to breaking point before we share the lessons we have learnt. We need to strip it back to basics for our children too. Their needs are simple – love, time and care. Yes, they need other things too but not at the expense of quality time together. When your small child insists on climbing into bed with you at night, it’s because they miss you not because they are trying to annoy you. When your children won’t get ready to go to the park, it’s because they just want one day where they don’t get dressed and when they can spend time with their things.
This is a reminder to myself as much as a plea to you. I’m as guilty as anyone at signing the girls up to one thing too many. Though I do increasingly ask myself if it is too much, too soon. What do they have to grow into, to look forward to if they do everything now? And what does it say of our lives if the end of holidays wreaks such heartbreak? Instead of living for another day I want us and the children to love the here and now and nothing lights up our hearts and our souls quite as much as time together.
ps thank you to Pinterest for the image.
pps in the interests of being open and honest, my eldest is about to do a Christmas season doing pantomime over a 5 week run. I’m am not sure yet whether the benefits will outweigh the inevitable craziness it will bring. I’ll let you know.