March 10, 2014

the Gift of Time

We spent a good deal of time at the ocean last week, doing nothing in particular.  Just being there.  In the van ride back to the yurt, Joe asked, "Now, be honest because I don't care what you answer.  I'm just curious.  How does a day at the beach compare to a day at Disney Land?"

To our great surprise, we got two votes for the beach being better and one kid saying it was a tie.  Wah?  Joe and I mulled it over and really, what it seems to come down to is time.  At the beach, there is nothing preplanned.  There are no lines, no waiting, and no adults saying, "Hey, let's do this next."  It was just them, goofing off, exploring, taking time to draw in the sand and have cartwheel races.  There was just time.  Loads and loads of time.

It made me reflect on how often, when I need to go somewhere or even when I offer to take the kids to do something I think would be fun for them, they whine and say they just want to stay home.  They just want time.

Or that time while Joe was out of town and we had no reason to be home by dinner so we went to the nature park and I just sat.  I sat for hours and they poked around the mud with sticks, built shelters, played hide and seek in the underbrush.  They didn't need a playground or an assigned activity.  They just wallowed in the free time.  We had never stayed that long because I always had somewhere else to get to or assumed that they would get bored.  They didn't.

As modern parents, we have so many things we could buy our kids, give our kids, take our kids to do.  But do they want it all?  Usually, I think the answer is no.  I think usually, if we would listen to our kids when they tell us what they really want, it would be that thing that's free but somehow in short supply.  Time.  Time alone.  Time with us.  Time to just be.

I agree that too much free time often ends in disaster.  This is exactly why we don't do summer break.  Too much free time and suddenly the kids want to eat each other.  But after a highly structured day, they need it.  They need a moment to be with themselves and with each other and just be.

So before going out and buying a new toy or handing them an activity box, maybe ask what they want to do.  If they're anything like my kids, they'll want to stay home and just be.  Or they'll want to snuggle or be told a story.  They aren't born consumers.  They learn that from us.  If we listen to what they really want, it's time.  And how awesome is that?  It doesn't cost a thing, it doesn't pollute or create waste.  It's a gift from God and our kiddos just want to wallow in it.   

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