Wednesday, May 24, 2006

And the Living Is Easy

Jacelyn has no hobbies. This concerns me from time to time; especially this time of year, where an endless stream of children parade into the store for recitals. 6 year olds plunking out five finger arrangements of the 'Star Wars' theme, their parents and grandparents beaming from the audience or from behind a videocamera. Am I denying my daughter? While I want her to have interests, and hobbies, I also want her to learn the value of free time. Of getting lost in thought, of laying on a blanket and looking up at the stars or the clouds.

She does things, don't get me wrong. She loves swimming, and playing outside. She enjoys being read to, and will peruse books on her own and make up her own story (although all of her stories seem to involve Cinderella and poo). She loves her V-Smile video game system, and her Leapster handheld games. The love of video games makes me mildly uncomfortable, but the educational value of these games allays my maternal fears. She does do things, she doesn't just lay around on the sofa like a 34-pound throw pillow, but is that enough? Aside from the obvious need for her to be around other children, I find myself rather comfortable with her lack of scheduled activities.

I enjoy being unfettered. Having tasks, errands or activities scheduled in my free time gives me a feeling of dread. Accomplishing these things on my own at my own pace and schedule is fine, but give me a schedule or a timeline and I get all grumbly.

I also want her to decide what she wants to do, as opposed to me or someone else deciding for her. I bought her a violin two years ago for Christmas, and I still haven't put her in lessons yet. I wanted to, and still occasionally entertain the notion, but I want that to be her decision. I am waiting for her to come to me, to say, "Mommy, I want to _________". Then we'll go from there.

I think it's important for children to be allowed to be children. To enjoy the years before school begins, not spend them being shuttled between soccer practice and dance class and french lessons. Just the other day, picking up Jacelyn's forms for school, I heard one mother say to another mother, "He's never been in t-ball? Oh, my, he'll never make it into little league if he's never played t-ball, he'll be eaten alive". What? I was talking to a mother one day about putting Jacelyn in dance class, and she told me, "If you didn't start her at three she'll never have a chance, there's almost no point in starting her now". What? I'm not trying to turn her into a prima ballerina, I just want her to have fun doing the things she enjoys. Of course I want her to try, and to dedicate herself to the activities she pursues, but you don't have to master a skill or art to enjoy taking part in it.

There is freedom and joy in occasionally having nothing to do. The days that I am off work, Jacelyn inevitably asks me, "So what do we have to do today, mommy?", and there is nothing I enjoy more than to say, "Nothing but spend it together".

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