It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Best enrichment activity?

798783_dandelion_girlI was chatting with a friend about the stress levels in his life, levels of a sort that may be familiar to many of you. The busy-ness of work and home and meals and T-ball and baseball and dance class and craft class and trumpet lessons and clubs and…

Stop! It’s TOO MUCH!

Why do we do this to ourselves? Because we are Good Parents. We want our children to have full, enriched lives. We want them to explore and develop their talents, we want them to be fully-rounded people.

Thing is, how do you get to that? By racing around from one activity to the next in a stressed-out frenzy? I don’t believe it.

Tammy wrote about how she restricts her kids’ activities to “one physical, one musical“. I did something very similar when my children were small. One physical, one non-physical.

When they were small, the physical was shared: they ALL took swim lessons, they ALL played soccer. As they became old enough to have more say in their activities, they were also deemed old enough to start taking some responsibility to get to and from. Now that they are teens, I very rarely drive them anywhere. (Helps that we don’t have a car, I know, but this was true even when we did.)

We live in a very extroverted, activity-driven society. Reality is in the doing. “Busy” is seen as a virtue. What if I told you that “busy” is a vice? And that an unending round of activities don’t enrich your child, it reduces their quality of life?

What is enrichment? When does enriching occur? If you read about people who made huge discoveries, scientist who’ve won Nobel Prizes, artists who’ve created things of immense beauty, social visionaries who have changed their societies, you’ll often note that they had their great insight during a time of reflection.

You can’t think when you’re going, going, going, doing, doing, doing.

Enriching occurs in the putzing-about, the unscheduled time that allows you to process the things you’ve done and to hear the thoughts in your own head.

So, yes, you need some external input, you need some time absorbing information and ideas from the outside world. You need to spend some time doing.

And then? Then you need to get away quietly, and “do nothing”. Just be. Your kids need time to muck about, hang out, “do nothing”. (And if they can’t handle that? If down-time is an endless series of “I’m bored” and demands that you play with/entertain them? They’re too used to being busy. They need more practice with the downtime. Ignore them. Or threaten to find them something to do. Mwah-ha.)

The best “enrichment activity” for your kids is unscheduled, minimally supervised downtime. Really.

What does that gain you? A quiet(er) home. A more measured existence. Children who know how to entertain themselves. Children who are learning to think, not just do. Time to relax, yourself.

And far, far, far less stress.

June 3, 2009 Posted by | parenting, socializing | , , , , , | 13 Comments