For the record, I will state that I have a pretty good set up going on in my life. I work part time with benefits (meaning vacation, holiday and sick leave) and my job is fairly flexible. After years working retail and then adjunct teaching, it is a huge relief to know that when I or my daughter are sick, I can simply choose to stay home without any guilt over how my absence will impact co-workers. I work a 4 day work week with afternoons and 3-day weekends to spend with my family. I do not bring work home with me, nor do I stress about it once I walk out my office door. Sounds ideal, doesn't it?
But with Cowgirl leaving the world of preschool and becoming an official full time student (kindergarten is full time where we live) next fall, I am feeling huge guilt and remorse over the absence of unstructured time in her life. It is a feeling that has been nibbling on my emotional toes but last night felt like a great white shark ready to snap at my heart. As I struggled to fall asleep, I was remembering all the summers I had as a child when days seeped into each other with the only routine to speak of being play. When I was very young, we would spend summer's at the Jersey shore, my dad driving down on weekends. Weekdays were spent with my mom and the pack of neighborhood kids I roamed around with. I was either on the move via my blue hand-me-down boy's bike or sauntering in flip flops to the bay or ocean for swimming, card games on beach towels, or sandcastle building. Adventure was an excursion to the drug store or 5-and-dime to see what our quarters would buy us. A new Archie comic book was a celebration and evenings at a putt-putt golf course this child's dream of perfection.
This summer will be Cowgirl's third time in summer school. I know she has a blast, has access to so many wonderful activities, other kids (which our neighborhood lacks) but still this huge BUT has logged itself in my throat. School mornings I have to drag her out of bed and down to breakfast. Her demeanor is crabby and whiney. On "home days" (non-school days) she is up at the crack of dawn, playing and happy to just hang out in her p.j.s all morning. She gets up early because she doesn't want to "waste time" - her words - sleeping in on a home day. Now, she never wants to leave school when I pick her up, so I am pretty certain her resistance is not because of a problem at school. I think her resistance is to the busy-ness of another school day.
I totally get this and I wonder how I would have felt as a child not to have enjoyed long summers which invariably ended with a level of boredom and readiness to head back to school. And I understand she doesn't know anything different so my guilt has more to do with my expectations and memories. I guess I miss not having a long string of days in which play is the main objective, busy-ness is replaced by laziness and boredom acts as motivation to become more creative, silly and spontaneous. Life seems far more mapped out and planned these days. I suppose my challenge for us all is to figure out ways to loosen things up a bit. Slowing down and making a priority "spacious time" as I like to think about it. Time when things are allowed to unfold, plans change and the attitude of "why not?" prevails.
How do you built spacious or unstructured time into your child's schedule? Or even into adult life? Summer always seems like the season for loafing, lolling, cloud gazing and general relaxation. Am I the only one feeling anxious about facilitating all this?
Happy Monday! Here are my best shots of spacious time from this weekend.