Friday, February 5, 2010

Slowing the Pace

The following is an essay I had published a few (about 4) years ago. A few very short years ago, but long enough ago that it almost seems like another lifetime. We've made some major changes in our lives since then, but we made them slowly, at a pace that allowed easy adjustment. I'm publishing this essay here today because of this blog post by my friend Rita over at Grammy's Sweet Nothings. I hope you enjoy it, but more than that...I hope it encourages you to slow down and enjoy the simple things. :)

Some of my most treasured memories are centered on the carefree summer days of my 1970s childhood. Mornings spent bicycling and skating before it got ‘too hot’. Afternoons at the community pool mastering the art of the underwater handstand. Evenings of firefly-filled jelly jars and games of Spotlight. Even rainy days weren’t all that bad when Mom spread a blanket on the front porch and my friends and I played Barbies, Play Doh and Spirograph for hours on end. Of course, the highlight of each week was the three block trek to the Bookmobile to search its wonderfully stuffed shelves for just the right volume to carry me away.

We sometimes complained of no excitement. “There’s nothing to do!” was a common cry when my friends and I grew bored with whatever we were into at the time. Even though I remember this with great clarity, I can now honestly say that I often find myself longing for some of that same boredom I so loathed back then. I also wonder if my kids might subconsciously long for some of the same.

This year our vacation was scheduled for the week after a busy school year ended. The trip was much anticipated and while I can’t say that we were disappointed, I can look back and say that we sure packed an awful lot into a few short days. By the time we pulled into our driveway, I felt like I needed a vacation to recuperate from our vacation! That Monday afternoon, we unpacked the vehicle and immediately loaded ourselves back into it so that we could travel another hour to my daughter’s All-Star softball game. We had Bible School the rest of the week and other church activities in which we participate, plus the usual hours spent in the gym while my daughter works out with her gymnastics team. Of course, there were still dental and orthodontic appointments to be kept, my community volunteer commitments and my husband’s work schedule. It is getting so that we have to actually pencil-in family time and it makes me feel like a thief. In my desire to give my kids more opportunities to participate in activities and sports than I had as a child, I am basically robbing them of the very things I remember so fondly. Most of the time it feels like a no-win situation.

When did things begin to get so out of hand? I ask myself that question on a regular basis. Is it because I’m not good at saying NO? Perhaps. Are the kids involved in too many things? Maybe. I just find it difficult to tell them they can’t at least try something to see how they like it. I was not an athletic child and I’ve always regretted that fact, so I want them to have the chance to pick and choose the kinds of activities they might enjoy. Should I put my foot down and limit the running? Probably, and I suppose I will when I reach the breaking point.

Sometimes when they’re winding down at bedtime, one of the kids will ask me to tell a story about my childhood. I tell them of those laid back summer days and the things my friends and I did for fun. As expected, they get that faraway look in their eyes as only daydreaming children can. I know they are right there, in their minds’ versions of my childhood, splashing in the pool on a hot summer day or sneaking quietly through the dewy evening grass, flashlight in hand, attempting to locate a hiding playmate. I wonder if it is fair that they aren’t making these same kinds of memories for themselves, and if the memories they are making will be looked back upon as fondly when they’re grown. Then reality slaps me in the face when I realize that even if they weren’t so involved in extracurricular activities, there still would be no games of Spotlight or bicycling with their friends. Why? Because those friends’ schedules look a whole lot like our own. It is now officially an epidemic.

It is a very sad fact that we’re raising an entire generation that requires constant entertainment and amusement. (Handheld video games, DVD players in the vehicle, etc.)Trouble is that we, as parents, are setting the example by cramming so much into our own hectic days. I suppose that until every family decides to draw the line somewhere, our calendars will continue to be too full and our children too busy to know how to enjoy the simple things in life.

And now, we’re off to soccer camp...


  1. Kelli, Thank you for your sweet comments. I so enjoyed your essay. I agree with you, I think in this day and age we let our children become involved in so many things that they do not have the time to enjoy just the simple things of life that we so enjoyed as we were growing up. I have some very treasured memories of my cousins and myself having such good times together. As my children were growing, I tried to have their friends at our house to play and do those things that I so enjoyed. Have a great weekend!

  2. We battle this too. Your childhood sounds a lot like mine. We've made a rule that the kids can be involved in one church activity and one "community" activity at a time.

    I loved your essay!


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