This weekend, something very strange is about to happen to my family. We are somehow confronted with a completely blank calendar. No kids’ birthday parties. Baseball season is over, thank God. Soccer season is, too. No games to rush off to, no presents to buy at the last minute at Henry Bear’s Park. No end-of-year picnics or happy hours or barbecues or weekend work assignments. Nothing. Do you hear me? Nothing!
This is scary.
In fact, I don’t think this has happened since about 2015.
My first instinct was to open up my Google calendar and begin filling it somehow. Trip to the beach? Playdate? Something, anything? Next, my husband suggested that he and a friend go camping with the kids. (I will never, ever go camping. The closest I get to nature is opening my window when it’s over 75 degrees outside.)
But I told him not to book it. I pleaded with him. (Actually, I said, “You’d better not even think about it.”) We need the downtime. Yes, instead, I am going to confront this unusual, forbidden, majestic 48-hour expanse with zen-like calm. I am going to let it wash over me, languidly, without pressure or compulsion. I’m going to enjoy it. And my kids will, too, dammit!
My older son has suddenly developed a strong aversion to boredom. Last week, when his Zeyde was too tired to play catch with him and while I was busy working, he flung himself atop the sofa and began to sob.
“There’s nothing to doooo!” he wailed. I suggested puzzles, Legos, books, an array of toys that are currently overtaking our playroom. But nothing pleased him. He didn’t have anywhere to go or anyone to see. He was left to his own devices, and he was absolutely miserable, flapping on the couch like a fish out of water.
I gave him a stern talking-to and shooed him toward his bedroom, but truthfully, I empathized. No, I don’t fling myself atop the sofa when confronted with no plans, but I feel the same sense of anxiety and jittery longing. Who am I when I’m not busy? What happens if I have untended time to just rattle around in my own head or concoct my own amusements? The mere thought is dangerous. Forbidden.
But it should be enough. Here’s a hard question: What would you do with your children, if you had time to simply be? If you weren’t zipping off someplace, shoving food in their mouths, stuffing them into soccer cleats or pushing them out the door to music lessons? To go somewhere? To be something?
Usually, such a prospect might even fill me with a little bit of sadness. We need to fill up our schedule, be busy, be better! But in light of what’s going on at the border, with migrant children being separated from their parents, I feel especially selfish bemoaning this unstructured time with my kids. How lucky am I to even have this time? I’m going to make the most of it (in the most pressure-free way possible, of course).
So maybe we’ll go to the beach. Maybe I’ll take my newly minted second-grader to Kohl’s (his choice) to buy new Under Armour shirts (his choice). Maybe I’ll try to beat him at Mario Kart (something I’m usually way too busy to do). Maybe we’ll pack a picnic and sit by Spy Pond for an hour. Maybe I’ll find time to cook everyone a nutritious dinner instead of warming up fish sticks and tater tots before heading out the door to baseball. The possibilities are endless. Maybe he’ll even (gasp!) wander down the street and knock on his friend’s door for an impromptu playdate. Remember when we did that, back in the 1970s and 1980s?
Kids are often so overbooked. And so are we. It’s tiring. It’s taxing, for us and for them. It makes kids cranky, and it makes parents mean (at least, it makes me mean). So I’m going to squeeze every little bit of nothingness out of this bizarre weekend. Because after that, it’s summer camp, a road trip, birthdays, plans. Too much laundry and too little time.
But, for now, we breathe. And we like it.