We have a busy family life and the days are full. Full to bursting with stuff. After school activities, playdates, social media chats, messages and notifications, television programs, mobile phones ringing and beeping and buzzing, days out, appointments... the list goes on.
I had been feeling like I was literally always plugged in, always having to be somewhere, always on the treadmill to not be late, to get everyone ready, to answer that text message, to reply to that email. Exhausting.
At the start of the summer holiday break from school I made a decision to change things up a little around here. My aim was to reconnect with my life a little more and get rid of some of the unnecessary noise in my world. In previous years the school holidays were a time when I felt under pressure to entertain. I would fill each day with an activity, a tennis lesson, a trip to the zoo, a kids club program. Each day my children would turn to me and ask "what are we doing today" ? and I would respond by filling up each day with stuff, with things, with schedules and time constraints. All this driven by a fear of not wanting them to be bored, and if I am completely honest I took less effort from me to drop them off at a structured holiday program for the afternoon than it did for me to entertain them. Afterall I had jobs to do, work to finish, and a house to clean. I could not entertain them on top of that.
Looking back I have decided that I don't think I did my children any favours - I took away from them the ability to entertain themselves, I took away the true beauty of childhood, the bits where you just are, you just play, you lay in the grass and look at the sky and watch the clouds morph into faces and animals and other shapes, you draw pictures or paint, you sit around and chat, you run, you hide and you seek, build dens, ride bikes, swim in the ocean, climb trees, play make believe, dance to music, complete a jigsaw puzzle, use your imagination.... I had been filling up every waking moment and in doing so we had lost the beautiful everyday moments that are the things that make your soul feel alive. The small things that really are the big things. I feel like I kind of missed the point.
So this summer I decided to do things differently, and I started off by planning nothing.... no structure and no schedule. Then I had to deal with my children who have become so used to having entertainment provided for them - It proved a little tricky for them to think for themselves. At first they just seemed to follow me around the house, looking a bit lost. They would ask me for ideas, and needed my attention. It was actually draining and I would be lying if I said I didnt enjoy my wine immensly at the end of the day.
One day the hot summer sunshine hid behind dark clouds and the weather gods delivered rain... rain in abundance. It was the sort of day where I would usually book us tickets to go see a movie - a great activity to take up half a day and keep everyone occupied for a few hours whilst the rain poured down. I resisted the urge to jump online and purchase a cinema experience and instead left my kids to figure out what the day would hold. I looked out of the window at lunchtime and to my surprise and to my delight this is what I saw.
I can not even begin to explain the joy that I felt at that moment, the rain, the muddy puddles, the laughter. On that day we started our new version of summer holidays, our new version of family time, our new version of playtime. I have enjoyed sitting back a little and watching my children connect with each other and with time. It's a beautiful work in progress.