Take the day off
Our culture trains kids from an early age into its frenzied, workaholic lifestyle. Not only do we schedule them more than ever with extracurricular activities, but we also model a lifestyle where we only take days off from our routine if we’re deathly ill (sometimes not even then). We teach them that being at work or school or whatever else we have planned is an imperative to be ignored only under extreme circumstances.
Some of this is by necessity of course. If you don’t show up to work, you don’t get paid. If you play hooky too often, you loose your job. If you don’t do your homework, you’ll fail the class. If you don’t show up to practise, you’ll get cut from the team. The consequences for just taking a lazy day off are real and sometimes too serious for us to ignore.
On the other hand, sometimes we end up being slaves to activities that don’t really matter. We do things, even otherwise good and fun things, out of routine or obligation even when we’re past the point of stress and anxiety. We go to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning because we want to support local farmers. We take our kids to the optional soccer development practise because all the other parents on the team are taking their kids. We go to the gym three days a week (no I don’t) because it’s good for the body. We go to church on Sunday because it’s good for the soul. The list is endless.
Perhaps because of my upbringing (my Mom used to let me have “mental health” days off school), or perhaps just because of my personality (I preferred to attend classes only when things were due), I’ve never really bought into this idea. As opposed to my wife (who had perfect attendance over her entire highschool career), it always seemed more important to me to have places of lull and relaxation in my life. I still feel that way, especially about my kids, and my wife is gradually getting on board.
This is why I make my kids’ school crazy (also because I like to make them crazy). If there’s something cool happening around the city on a particular day (a museum exhibit or a theatre performance or social justice demonstration), I’m not going to let our schedule keep us from going. If I feel like the kids are stressed out and in need of a break, I’m not going to let other people’s expectations keep them from getting what they need.
For example, I recently took Sunday morning off to go to a two-headed giant Magic: The Gathering tournament with my eldest son (if you know what that means you’re his kind of geek). Just this past week I kept my youngest home to have some one-on-one attention with dad (we went for a nice pre-autumn walk). They’re all taking this coming Monday off school so we can go hang out on Manitoulin for a long weekend.
The point is that while it’s important to teach kids to take their responsibilities seriously, it’s also important to teach them to take time for themselves, for the things that are important to them, for the things that make life worth living.