The Gentle Art Of Doing Nothing » Teeny Manolo

The Gentle Art Of Doing Nothing

By Glinda


My son has nothing to do.

And that’s fine with me.

From the time school ended, we have been on two vacations as well as various day trips since the Scarecrow was still off work. Then he had a week of day camp, and then came the Fourth of July and all the related shenanigans.

That is a lot of stuff packed into three weeks.

So I have deliberately scheduled nothing for the next two weeks. I’m trying to give the Munchkin the gift of being able to utilize that time when you are essentially your own boss. To learn how to amuse himself without the benefit of anyone else around.

I am of the opinion that we are doing our children a disservice by the constant bombardment of activities we deem important to their development. Classes, endless playdates, daycamps, and even daycare deliver large amounts of stimulation. An overstimulated child is not a happy child.

Equally important to their development, if not more so, is the ability to be by yourself. To be able to entertain yourself independently. The value of devising plays, lying on the grass, reading a book, constructing towering Lego buildings without help, and creating elaborate stuffed animal tableaus is vastly underrated.

And even though it means that I am currently listening to the very loud crashing of dozens of large wooden blocks, the kid needs all the practice he can get.

7 Responses to “The Gentle Art Of Doing Nothing”

  1. dgm Says:

    I, too, reject the overscheduled childhood.

    I love listening to my boy build with Legos and K’nex and sing/hum the theme song from Star Wars over and over. That kid can self-amuse like nobody’s business, without even turning on a t.v.

  2. Mr. Henry Says:

    This is a profoundly wise essay, Glinda. Without dream time, how can their imaginations soar?

    If you just feed ’em, love ’em, and leave ’em alone, it’s remarkable how well they do.

  3. La BellaDonna Says:

    Thank you. I have often wondered why so many parents seem to feel the need to schedule every second of every day for their progeny. What happened to reading, playing, amusing oneself (and the option of cleaning one’s room, if the fateful words “There’s nothing to do!” should be uttered). How can kids find out what interests them, if they’re not given any time to themselves? I think it’s great to be offered the opportunity to learn, but I don’t think there are really that many Bruce Lees, Peles, and other sports/music stars in the offing, as there are children who are taking lessons.

    The second part of that wonderment is, What about the parents? What about THEIR time, and what THEY might like to do with it? Maybe Mommy would be better off taking that judo class HERSELF, instead of sublimating her longing. It seems to me as if the primary lesson children are learning is that life revolves around children, that to be an adult means to be a chauffeur, and that adults do nothing interesting on their own – it’s All About the Kids.

    I think the greatest gift my mother gave me was a love of reading, and the time to do it. I learned from example that the best way to spend one’s time was with a book. I now have to substitute “free time” for that initial assessment, but it’s still one of the best and happiest ways to spend time. My folks gave me a chance to sample a few different things when I was a child – ballet lessons and riding lessons, how to run a sewing machine – but these were activities I actually requested the chance to learn, and I got lessons when I was old enough to benefit from them; there was plenty of time to ride my bike, and play with Barbie, and make toys for my younger siblings. It seems to be very different from the way children are scheduled to the nanosecond these days.

  4. roz Says:

    Well, that’s nice for the stay-at-home parent, but summer day camp is a working mom’s only choice, really.

    We do have a deal that we will only enroll our kids in extra-curriculars that they ask for. So far that has meant two courses of Saturday AM gymnastics and that’s it. No soccer, softball, or music lessons so far. I say it’s because they won’t be committed to it unless they really want it, but I secretly suspect it’s because I am personally too lazy to be carting them everywhere on weekends.

  5. raincoaster Says:

    Has the world run out of reliable teenagers entirely? I spent many Summers of childhood boring the heck of the sulky girl down the street who looked after us. Day camp was for people who really missed being in school, or in the army or something, and sleepaway camp was for rich people and those whose parents were off to Reno for a divorce.

  6. Azulao Says:

    I am so thankful for the days and days I was allowed to spend in “Narnia,” which was the playshed in the back yard. We wouldn’t come in until it was pitch dark.

    My mom was a single mom, a graduate student, and she also used to take us to campus with her. No doubt this is why I am now a college professor. ­čÖé

    Thank you, Glinda, this was a delightful meditation on the topic of, well, meditation.

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