Recently, our youngest daughter came home from summer camp. My husband and I are both former campers and big believers in the month-long camp experience for our girls.
For the past decade we’ve faithfully prioritized “a month on the mountain” as the primary summer activity for our children.
Days later, after the heaping loads of laundry were washed and folded and the trunk was put away, I noticed my daughter curling up with a book, playing with our dogs and working on craft projects.
Immediately, I feared these pursuits would be short-lived and fretted about her succumbing to the boredom that can be prevalent during long, lazy summer days. I worried aloud to my husband, “But what will she do now?”
We both work, and the months before school starts present a challenge for us, as they do for many families. I bemoaned the fact that I had not been more proactive in making sure she had activities lined up for the next few weeks, and I braced myself for a long whine of, “Mom, I’m so bored.”
However, on a recent afternoon I came home to a list on our fridge titled Summer Bored List, in which my daughter outlined suggestions for plans if she was bored that included, but was not limited to: writing a song, doing yoga, and designing a home.
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As I read through her list, I realized that she was viewing the liminal space of the next few weeks as a gift and an opportunity for creativity when I saw it as a continuation of empty days that hastily needed to be filled.
Stop and sniff the roses
As I’m getting older, I’m realizing that there have been times in my life when I have been guilty of sleepwalking, choosing to busy myself into a stupor in the name of productivity rather than being mindful of balancing quality rest and meaningful action. I’d like to re-do those years, but all I can do is try not to repeat them or, worse, instill a mentality of hollow busyness in my children.
For some of us, our DNA is hard-wired to achieve, and our society enthusiastically supports success at seemingly any price. As parents, we spend untold amounts of money for the most selective educations, the most competitive sports camps and the most unique experiences for our children.
I worry, in response to the hectic pace of daily life, what we are teaching our children about slowing down, if we are showing them anything about meaningful rest at all. Are we programming our children to hyper-succeed and failing to teach them to appreciate rest and what farmers call a fallow season, where farmland is given space to recover and sit untilled?
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We live in a world that begs us to do more and do it even faster. For many of us, the truth is that we can do more, but should we?
Taking on a new commitment should not be a matter of simply checking schedules, but instead checking our bandwidth for engagement. When do we say enough is good enough and begin to rest in activities of leisure rather than production?
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For the rest of the summer, I’m taking a cue from my daughter and looking for ways to be bored and live as unscheduled as I can. Maybe what the world needs is more children (and adults) who want to play in a garden, who experience joyful nights of catching fireflies and spend their days writing songs and stories.
Mary Cady Bolin is a writer and pastor based in Nashville, TN. She writes about spiritual life, current events, and family.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Self-care: Don't forget to stop, take some time for leisure