I am a big believer in free time. I don't like to overschedule my kids (though I struggle with that in my own life). I'm all for church programs and sports teams and piano lessons, and even trips to the zoo and play dates and other activities to keep them well-rounded and create memories. But I also think there is tremendous value in just being home. No agenda. No plan. And sometimes, Mommy isn't available to drop everything and solve all the world's problems--sometimes they have to figure it out while Mommy folds laundry. I think this is good. Important, even.
Do I sound a little defensive? A little like I'm trying too hard? Because I really do believe that, but sometimes I have to remind myself. Sometimes I have to say, "Remember, my heart, we do not HAVE to leave the house every day. I am NOT a bad mom just because Monkey's eyes plead with me when he says, 'I just can't find anything to DO.'"
Yesterday I was reminding myself. We are leaving for vacation in a few days, the boys had both been sick, life had been busy. I needed to catch up, do laundry, wash dishes. Monkey and Lamb were bickering, snarking. I sat them down and read out loud to them for a while, then gave them required separate play time. "You can play anywhere in the house, but not together. You cannot pester each other or ask each other questions or even comment on what the other person is doing. Play by yourself for a while, and I will let you know when you can play together."
There was eye-rolling. Followed by a little bit of moping. Maybe even a door closed juuuuuuuuuuust shy of slamming. There was silence, broken only by a sigh here and there.
I decided to make myself scarce, closing myself in my room with a big pile of clean clothes. And I wondered. "Maybe we do need to be out every day. Maybe they need me to keep them busier. Maybe I need to make them a list of things they can play. But I don't want to squelch their creativity. Do they have creativity, or have I already squelched it by scheduling too many things for them, and now they are ruined for life?"
I emerged to find the start of something wonderful, although I didn't realize it at the time.
Monkey had begun a game of "stuffed animal bowling." My kiddos have a couple of stuffed animals that are basically plush balls with faces. He was using those to knock down other animals, and was quite delighted with himself.
I lifted the ban on playing together, then went back to work.
My friends, what happened next was absolutely amazing. My two kiddos (Roo was at camp) put together their own obstacle course of fun, complete with six different stations. They used stuffed animals, empty paper towel rolls (from the recycling! no piles of unused towels laying on my kitchen floor!), markers and crayons, paper plates--all kinds of things that were laying around the house. They made six different stations of activities and games. And then they went through all of the stations together, laughing and giggling through the whole thing. They kept score of sorts, but it was sort of like "Whose Line is it Anyway?"--the points didn't seem to matter.
They laughed more than they have all summer. They created something--a whole assortment of somethings--and they worked together to do it. They brainstormed together and helped each other.
And I. was. vindicated.
Just one boring summer day. Probably the best day of our summer so far.