A mom of a client tried to find a day to reschedule a session that they were going to miss next week. She could not find ‘an opening’ in her five-year-old’s schedule in the next SEVERAL weeks.
“We may have more time in March,” she murmured, peering at her iPhone screen. “No, actually, that’s when his sports club changes, so I don’t know if he’ll have time then.”
Aside from speech-therapy, which he needed because of a small deformity in his mouth which affected the clarity of his speech; this five-year-old had baseball, soccer, drama, piano, chess, guitar lessons, and tutoring (for kindergarten preparation–the latest hit in urban upper class–this mom is actually behind the curve because she ‘only’ started him at age three, and not earlier…). He also had two playdates scheduled–in the several weeks ahead, there was no time for more–one to take place at a museum and the other at a movie theater followed by a pizza place.
Al of those were activities to fit after his preschool was done at 2pm each day or on weekends. Sunday was especially busy, apparently, with double tutoring, so he “not fall behind on no school days.”
“When does he play?” I wondered aloud.
The mom looked mildly surprised at the question. “Oh, he plays a lot. He plays soccer, baseball, chess…”
I smiled. “I meant when does he have time for unstructured play, to just be in his room with his toys and use his imagination and daydream and make up stories for himself?”
The mom nodded dismissively, “Oh, yeah, I know that’s good for his development, but he’s just too busy right now. He does read, though. He’s up to level 2 now. Every night he has to read his words before he goes to sleep.”
The wonderful power of wondering was completely lost on the mother, swept up as she was in the rush of demands an requirements, competition, check-marks, and achievement.
It made me wonder, too, about whether she herself knew how to just be, if she still remembered how to play.
Do you set aside time for musing and refilling your tank of creativity and playfulness?
How much time does your child have for play? Does he lose himself in fantasy, imagination, and the wonder of wondering?
It is the job of childhood to be at play. To invent, experiment, inquire, speculate, dream with eyes wide open, animate toys, get slightly bored and think of nothing and everything, walk slowly outside and collect pieces of leaves, paper, dirt. It is the job of childhood to socialize, assign roles in joined mimicking of adult-roles and fantastic stories, negotiate with peers and make your own rules, unencumbered by adults who demand you follow the ‘rules-of-the-game’ instead.
Surely there is time a child should spend in listening, following directions, and learning. There is room for rules and consequences, routines and chores. However, losing the balance between adult-led and child-inspired, tilts childhood off its axis. How can a child who does not have the time to breathe and get a little bored, learn how to entertain himself, day-dream, imagine, be truly creative, be a child, play?
When is the last time you deeply reconnected with wonder? If you cannot say, then it is time to stop, watch a child getting lost in a bubble, let them be, and find your own path to some play.