Learning the value of doing nothing

Learning the value of doing nothing
Lila in a carefree moment

If vacations are measured by the amount of rest and relaxation you experience, I have to say that last summer our family had quite the opposite of what a summer break should be.

It involved an elaborate trip to California, a visit to Legoland, celebrating our two daughters’ birthdays back-to-back, spending the Fourth of July in a hotel in Costa Mesa, four weeks of summer school for my oldest daughter, weekly swim lessons, a last-minute trip to Door County where I tried in vain to squeeze in some work while having very little Internet connection, and general daily meltdowns from our exhausted kids.

This summer I vowed that it would be different. In many ways it was. The kids did have summer camp. But judging from the way they mostly happily went to and returned from camp, I knew it was not a stressful kind of “busyness” for them. It was the kind of busyness that summers should be filled with–running around outside, playing in the sandbox and the sprinklers, doing art projects, learning silly camp songs.

And yet, being the kind of mother that I am, I could not help but try to fit in some other activities that I thought were necessary for the kids. Swim lessons, once again. Art classes, because I thought that was something they both enjoyed. And then the counseling and occupational therapy sessions for my oldest daughter HJ.

As the summer once again draws to a close, I realize that even our scaled-back schedule may still have been too much, particularly for HJ, who is an introvert through and through and needs her downtime to function and be sane.

In these last couple weeks before school, I see her beginning to resist the imposed schedule, even if it involves only one activity a day.

Swimming? No thanks. Seeing the counselor she generally adores? She wants me to reschedule. Art class, which she loves once she gets there? Let’s just say we’ve missed more than a few classes.

It’s once again a reminder for me of how different my daughter is from me, and how our family needs to learn how to adjust. My youngest, on the other hand, the two of us could probably run around all day from activity to activity, thriving from the stimulation and new experiences.

I know how necessary it is for kids to have time for themselves, to be alone, to be quiet, to be creative. It’s something that we all probably need more of. For me, it happens in the rare times when I’m driving without the kids, or staying up late once they’re finally in bed. It’s the time to reflect, to plan, to dream. I know it’s those times of doing nothing where sometimes the most important things happen.

I also know that I’m always going to be fighting against my inclination to squeeze more into our lives, but the beauty of it is that I know we have next summer to try again. Or even tomorrow. A new day, to learn how to do nothing.

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