The shiny silver flute has been in its case, untouched, for weeks.
The ballet barre in the basement has not seen any attention for quite a while, either.
Just typing those sentences stirs up conflicting emotions for me. See, my daughter’s main activities during the school year are band and dance, but this summer, she’s been taking a break from them both.
Part of me gets nervous. I worry that she will lose skills she has worked hard to attain, fall behind her peers, and create more work for herself when she resumes both activities in a few weeks.
The other part of me is pleased. Childhood summers are supposed to be about taking a break, right? She needs down time.
I found surprising comfort from renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. When asked by the Cleveland Plain Dealer what advice he would give the parents of tween athletes, he said, “their kid needs at least two months off each year to recover from a specific sport. Preferably, three to four months.”
Whether dance is a sport is a raging debate, and one that I’m not getting into here, but I think it is safe to say that four dance classes a week is a workout for the body and involves a lot of repetitive motion. Dr. Andrews was referring to the impact of repetitive motion on young bodies. “Give them time off to recover. Please. Give them time to recover,” he implored.
And suddenly, my daughter’s more than two months off felt a lot better.
The same physical concerns do not apply to her flute playing, but I’m hoping that the break has been beneficial there, too. This past week I’ve thought about reminding her to practice and each time I opened my mouth to do so, I shut it again.
Do I want to remember this as a the summer she got really good at scales and double tounging? (Apparently, that’s a thing? God help me.) Aside from the fact that I’ll be happy to never, ever say my kid is a champion double tounger, I want her to have a bit of autonomy over her time and to choose her memories.
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” – John Lubbock, The Use of Life
She’s opting for time with friends over time with the music stand. That’s not only fine, it’s healthy. Balance is important at all ages, and we need to give our kids a chance to realize that.
It feels like we live in a world that is eager and happy to pigeon hole kids into certain activities, interests and even cliques at increasingly younger ages. Taking a break gives them a rest, and a chance to discover new interests and talents. It also gives them an opportunity to enjoy free time, something I think childhood has too little of these days, and time to figure out how to entertain themselves.
So many activities are year round now, but are we not teaching our children the value to be found in taking a break?
I’m really curious to see how my kiddos feels when she returns to both activities with the start of school. Will the break have invigorated her? Or is it the start of her wanting to take a longer break? Either way, I hope it has been beneficial, and that she remembers this as a summer of fun, a true chance to take a break.
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