Photo Credit: Mindy Rainey Creative
In my neck of the woods, sign-ups for summer classes, activities, and swimming lessons started this week. I’ve started planning and plotting with other moms so that our kids can be in the same activities. It would be so easy to fill our summer to the brim with good things–swimming lessons, baseball camp, tennis, soccer, ballet, VBS, art classes, field trips, and the list can go on and on! Fortunately for me, Anthony Esolen’s words from our group read last year (Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child) are keeping me in check. In over-committing our children, he reminds us, we risk damaging their capacity to feel wonder: “A child that has been blared at and distracted all his life will never be able to do the brave nothing of beholding the sky.” (Ch. 2)
I think stay-at-home moms are often susceptible to over-committing because activities provide something we can measure (“I ran the girls to swimming and my son to baseball and then returned books to the library before picking them all up” sounds more productive than “we laid on our backs in the backyard and looked at clouds”) and define (“I’m a good mom because I take my kids to all these activities that give them X and Y life skills!”). We’re perhaps unconsciously fighting back against the Mommy Wars arguments about how WOHMs do everything SAHMs do, plus work full-time, but of course that presumes that “everything we do” is active: driving them to practices, washing uniforms, coaching teams, grocery shopping. Don’t get me wrong–all of those things can be great and important, but they’re not the essence of motherhood. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: so much of our job is in the intangibles like creating wonder, feeding their souls, creating heart strings, shaping character. These things don’t fit neatly into an agenda, but if our agendas are too packed full of going and doing, the intangibles get lost in the shuffle. Sometimes it’s more important for my kids to squat down and look at a fuzzy caterpillar on the ground than to pose and smile for the photographer I hired for a family portrait. Sometimes a weary little girl needs to stay home from a play date and just snuggle on the couch with me and tell me about her day. Sometimes it’s better for my son to stare at the clouds and tell me the shapes he sees than to finish his math worksheet right at that minute. Sometimes I need to plan for us to do nothing for a week rather than sign the kids up for swimming lessons so that they can pass into the next level so they can get on the swim team next summer. Sometimes I need to let the bathroom go uncleaned and my email go unchecked so I can read books to a toddler who is feeling left out of all the big kid activities. I have their attention when I need it because they have my attention when they need it.
As you start to plan for the summer, dear readers, please remember that less is more. Do plan fun activities, do sign up for the library’s reading program, do try to keep up with cooking and cleaning, but do also leave plenty of time for wonder, relaxation, and the brave nothing of beholding the sky.