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Take time for the lazy days

Take time for the lazy days Take time for the lazy days

Our neighborhood recently had a block party, and I was surprised at who attended. The street was blocked with barricades, which left a big, open playground. There must have been 40 children between the ages of 8 and 12 laughing as they chased after each other or stood in small groups and shared stories.
I had no idea that so many kids of that age lived in my neighborhood. I see moms pushing strollers but never children just running across yards or kicking balls back and forth. When I asked one of the parents why I never saw their children, they explained that the kids are all at organized activities. A typical day is: off to school early, after-school day care or sports activities, home work and then to bed.
After eavesdropping on several parental scheduling plans for the summer, I deduced that the same practice of every hour being scheduled stayed in effect during the summer ‘vacation.’ Parents were trading information as to the ‘camps’ that were available for the kids while the parents were at work. Others were discussing athletic programs that were re-quired for their children ‘to make the team’ next school year.
What happened to the lazy days of summer? As a kid back in the dark ages, I remember long stretches of sleeping late, wandering out to find my mother in her garden in the cool mornings and slowly eating my breakfast oatmeal as I thought ahead to another long day of casual adventure. No one put me in a car and dropped me off at a program. We built forts, played dolls, worked in the vegetable gardens, took care of pets and went on excursions with my parents.
I am all for equal rights and opportunities for women. The old system of women home and men out and about wasn’t the best for anyone. I remember in college taking a course titled ‘Educating Women for a Changing World.’ Most of us girls in the class thought the professor was a subversive. She said that soon all women would be working and that they would put their children in day care. No way, we all thought. That was in 1957.
Today, we no longer expect all women to stay at home, sew their own clothes, cook and clean and take sole care of the kids. We are using the skills of our citizens in ways that are geared more toward maximizing their potential. Mothers and fathers are sharing the caretaking of their offspring and of many household tasks. Businesses and industry are providing flexibility for working hours and conditions. Day care is nothing like the old practice of a hodge-podge of home care providers. We now have professional and licensed child care centers for children of all ages.
However, something may have gotten lost along the way: freedom to look at a day and decide ourselves what we shall do with it. Have we left room to daydream? Have we squeezed out the desire to just run and move without the restrictions of rules and coaches? Are we letting pre-commitments keep us from being spontaneous? Where do we cram in the use of our own unique imaginations?
I live by my calendar and am scheduled weeks ahead; be productive, I tell myself in my old age. As my life load lightens with each year, I have more of those days where I look at a blank schedule and can choose what will fill its hours. Am I prepared for that? Have I been trained to enjoy the moment and explore new options? How do I break out of the mold that I must accomplish something under my old guidelines?
As our population of senior citizens grows, this is indeed something to ponder. It isn’t just preparing for the finances of retirement. How do we start to prepare our lifestyle from birth to be one of individual productive choices with a wide variety of interests? As a friend said recently, ‘Folks think they can’t wait to just play golf every day when they retire. Wait until they have done that for a few months.’
I, being of the old school, must admit that there is a sense of security and purpose found by getting booked into a routine. But what will I miss by not using my mind and my heart and spreading my wings into new areas? We probably do best with a mix of structured activities and free-form inventive play. Maybe we need, as a society, to think a bit about how we give an opportunity to all citizens to chart an interesting and productive course for each day.
One of these days just lie on your back and watch the white clouds form overhead. Maybe there will be some wonderful ideas that such daydreaming can send you.