Recently I had, for lack of a better phrase, a crappy week. Our family cat of 16 years passed away, our air conditioner was in need of a $1,000 repair during a 90-degree heat spell, my husband was out of town for the week, and I was fighting a stomach bug. On top of all that, I had the normal “busy” that comes with work, kids, and after school activities. It was one of those perfect storms of yuck weeks that we’ve all experienced at some point. I was feeling sad, annoyed, gross, and tired all at once. All I wanted (and needed!) was a day in bed, binge-watching British TV shows while drinking a cup of tea. My body was physically telling me to SLOW DOWN, however, when I had a day off of work, I had that all too familiar nagging feeling that I should pack in as much as possible into my day. How could I waste my time lying around when I could be accomplishing so much?
These days, our society has a tendency to not only fill up our adult schedules with endless tasks and errands but also our children’s. We feel the need to plan their days with clubs, sports, and enrichment activities. Idle downtime is often seen as a wasted opportunity for learning, improving, or productivity. Often times, our kids have more active social lives than we do as parents. Our weekends are filled with birthday parties, playdates, and sleepovers. These activities only add to our already full workloads as adults, leaving virtually no time to slow down. We must go, go, go!
When did it become like this? Why do we not only feel the need to stay “busy” all the time but also feel guilty for not having our days fully scheduled? My kids casually participate in one sport or after-school activity each, and when I look at social media I feel like I’m doing them an injustice. I think things like, “We need to sign them up for more! There’s nothing on our calendar this weekend let’s plan something!” When in actuality, my kids beg me regularly for simple things like jammie days and movie nights. They revel in weekends spent lounging on the couch with nothing on the agenda but playing with Legos and sorting out their Pokemon cards.
My kids seem to understand what we as adults don’t. Life isn’t meant to be rushed and busy. We aren’t going to win any awards for having the fullest calendar. While we can’t always avoid those hectic weeks that our lives seem to be full of, we aren’t obligated to make every day jam-packed. When thinking of my boys’ more simple approach to life, I’m reminded of Mary Oliver’s words from her poem, “The Summer Day.”
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
We often read this one line and interpret it as a call to action to fill our life up with “meaning and purpose.” However, when you read the poem in its entirety, Oliver is simply describing a quiet walk through a field where she spends her time observing a grasshopper. She wasn’t trying to inspire us to stay busy or guilt us for not being “productive”, she was simply encouraging us to slow down and enjoy the world around us (something my kids seem to already know to do naturally!)
So I’ve decided to give myself permission to take a cue from my kids (and Mary Oliver) to slow down. I may not cross everything off my to-do list (this will be hard for me to accept!), and I may not have the most accomplished/busy children, but we will be happy. We will not compare our schedules to anyone else’s social media life. We will have jammie days with zero guilt. And, we will enjoy our one wild and precious life.