Piano, drawing, swimming, language classes, dancing, karate, football, tennis: our children are spoilt for choice when it comes to after school and weekend activities.
There are also play dates, birthday parties, vacations and outings to attend, not to mention somehow fitting in around six hours of schooling per day plus time for homework and studying for exams.
This is without factoring in time to just be kids, to play, or read, or spend time cuddling up with mum or dad.
Are we overscheduling our children and bringing them up to believe that busyness is the only way to live? Are we passing on some of our time-poor habits and misconceptions about what it means to live a meaningful life?
Are our kids too busy?
When my eldest daughter was our only child, I admit that I used to schedule something for her to do almost every day. Each week we attended a mother’s group gathering, a swimming lesson, and a “Gymbaroo” class, and when she was a little older we also started attending playgroup.
I was constantly having to drive around to different places, and would sometimes sit at playgroup half asleep, having worked late the previous night and then being woken up early by our daughter, only to have to be at playgroup around 9am.
Fast forward a few years and two more children later, and the activities became less of a priority, mainly due to financial constraints but also a lack of time. My youngest only started her very first activity, swimming, about 8 weeks ago!
The thought of driving three children to activities was too much, and now we are trying to cut back on how much time we allow our children to spend in scheduled activities. Life is more “go with the flow” with lots of “chill out time” as well as the usual fun kid stuff.
I think as parents, we all try to do the best we can with what we know- each of us has different circumstances, needs, knowledge and experience, and so my views on children and busyness are not meant to offend or make parents feel guilty.
But imagine just for a moment, how different your life and your kids’ lives would be if the pace slowed down just a little?
Instead of rushing off to another activity, using this time to sit at home with a good book or cuddle up and talk?
Instead of scheduling something every day during school break/vacation, allowing the kids to have a break from their friends and to learn that it’s ok to have a day at home not doing much?
Instead of thinking our children need to start an activity from a very young age, waiting a few years until they are old enough to discover their talents or interests?
A happy childhood is rarely about the number of experiences a child has been exposed to, but the quality. Think back to your own memories of childhood: what are they?
For me, it was playing outside with my siblings and the neighbourhood kids, climbing trees and riding our bikes and not going home until dinnertime. It was reading Enid Blyton’s “The Enchanted Wood” and daydreaming about being lost in a forest with magical trees and worlds beyond imagination.
I played netball for 18 months and hated it. I never attended dance classes. I rarely had a play date with friends and birthday parties were attended by my siblings and cousins.
Do I feel like I had a deprived childhood? Do I feel like I missed out on anything? No!
Was I ever bored? Yes! Children need to learn it’s ok to be bored sometimes. Children need to learn that sometimes, you just have to sit and wait patiently for a few minutes without thinking you need to constantly be entertained and busy.
Busyness and constant distractions and entertainment do not add more meaning to our children’s lives: it prevents our children from learning what it is to truly live a happy and meaningful life.
Busyness gives children the wrong idea about what brings happiness to our lives, and what it means to be successful.
Let’s lead by example and start to slow down our own busy lives- lets embrace a journey of unbusyness, and show our children what it means to truly live a meaningful life.
Let’s embrace the years of childhood and enjoy the simpler things in life. Let’s stop living up to society’s expectations of what a childhood should look like.
Someday, your child will thank you for doing so.
What steps are you taking to slow down the busyness of you children’s lives? Share your comments!