In praise of unstructured being

Haven’t gotten much writing done lately. A cold has been working it’s way through the family, so lots of having the kids home from school. I’m trying to look at it as an opportunity to enjoy having some time with them, though the proliferation of snotty tissues detracts a bit. As soon as both kids were well again, school let out for a teacher work day. I’m off work from my steady paycheck job on Fridays, and I usually try to get in at least a morning worth of writing.  But again, I decided my kids won’t be around forever. They’re 13 & 10 right now, and the older one especially is gravitating more toward friends than parents. But yesterday, I had them to myself.

Besides, the weather did a turn-around.  Tuesday’s overnight low was around 6 degrees F.  Friday’s daytime high was around 67 degrees F. The 10-year-old needed a haircut. Since the salon we used is next door to a sandwich place, I decided we should pick up some lunch there.  My daughter (the teenager) suggested taking our food to a park for a picnic.  It was at this point that I realized how easy I am. All it took for me to swoon with joy was finding out she still wanted to do such a thing with her family.  

It was one of the happiest afternoons I’ve had in a while, a day at the park with the kids. We had no pressure, no agenda, no school or other activity for which we had to rush off, no goals to accomplish, nothing to do except enjoy the weather and be with each other.  We ended up at a creek that was still thick with inches of ice, despite the warm day. It doesn’t get a lot of sun, so the thaw was slow. The three of us spent a good hour sliding rocks and sticks on the ice, then throwing rocks to see if they’d break the ice, and occasionally examining rocks for fossils. 

Did this activity educate us in some way? Don’t know.  Did it improve their chances for future employment? Probably not. Was it worth the time we spent on it?  Absolutely. At the end of the day, I was in a better mood than I have been for ages. The evidence shows the kids were, as well. 

My favorite memories of family time all involve unstructured, unplanned, informal hours  of doing not much more than hanging out. We all recall with fondness a night we set up an indoor tent using bed sheets tied to furniture, then took turns sitting in it while other family members made designs on the top with glow sticks. I can’t remember who first thought of doing it. It’s not something you’d find in a magazine article about enrichment activities for your child. It’s the kind of thing that can only happen spontaneously. 

Sometimes I think we tend to get so scheduled and so concerned with development or enrichment or improvement or whatever that we don’t leave ourselves time just to be. But it’s okay sometimes not to be able to give a list of accomplishments for the day.  Sometimes it’s okay, and even preferable simply to hang out, to spend some time enjoying our existence.

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One comment on “In praise of unstructured being

  1. crcb says:

    Yeah, what you said.

    Just being is underrated. Without actually trying, I find myself acting in a more spontaneous and less goal-driven way lately, at least a little bit. We have a housecleaning day scheduled, and we’ll get around to it, but today my daughter and I played a game of front-yard badminton without a net. She won, but the most fun moments were when we managed to get a sustained back-and-forth going. After that, we walked the dog. The other night an unexpected game of tag happened to us.

    Of course, I enjoy the more structured things, too, like the bedtime routine — especially now that we’re reading Harry Potter. (I refuse to read her any books based on TV shows, which she finds arbitrary, and she’s probably right.) But in this country and in this century, where many of us are rich by global/historic standards even when we’re in the middle of an economic meltdown, surely we can find time for… what’s the archaic term I’m trying to think of? “Leisure,” that’s it!

    It’s difficult for me to let go and just let life happen, but I’m learning.

    Like

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