Americans of all backgrounds have tried Marie Kondo’s methods of decluttering their homes. Could that decluttering itch be spreading to their lives as well?
I asked this question after reading an article in The Washington Post by Megan Nix, who explains her changing state of mind regarding her children’s extra-curricular activities.
Like many other parents, Nix wants to give her children opportunities to grow and learn, and has signed them up for activities such as ballet and art. While she appreciates the fun her children have at these classes, she also realizes the strain it puts on their family, both physically and emotionally. In the midst of this realization, she also remembers her own childhood and the beauty of down time:
In the 1980s, when I was the age my children are now, I was chiseling the atrophying concrete in our driveway after school, or trying to jump a bike over slabs of wood my older brothers had dragged out from the garage. I remember going to the park without our parents or hiding in the side yards of strangers. I wasn’t anxious, and neither were my parents. I don’t remember being lured by company-sponsored anything, and my mom doesn’t either.
I can sympathize, for I had a similar childhood. Even while living it, I recognized the value of not having to run to a million different activities, unlike my neighbor girl, whose parents worked fulltime and continually had her in camps and other programs. I knew she liked them, but I also knew how much she valued the week she spent in the care of my family one summer, just chilling and having all the time in the world to create and imagine.
As Megan Nix discovered in a conversation with her daughter, activities are fun, but many kids wouldn’t mind giving them up to spend quality time with family:
‘Maybe it would be nice to have a doughnut on Saturday mornings instead of gymnastics,’ I said. She lit up, and it was unlike any expression I’d ever seen on her face at the gym. I’m not encouraging slovenliness and doughnut eating over healthy athleticism, of course; I’m advocating for life balance, which sometimes means sprinkles and giggling in a sticky booth instead of standing stick-straight on a beam.
For many years, we’ve pushed the idea that children need to get out in society – through school and other activities – in order to be socialized. The thinking goes that they’ll make the connections and learn the ropes that will help them get ahead and be a future success. But what if such socialization has gone too far, and has pushed us and our children to the limit?
In her book, The Well-Trained Mind, educator Susan Wise Bauer declares, “The family unit – this basic agent of socialization – is itself a place to communicate with people of different ages.” But this agent is often pushed aside:
The trend in our culture is to devalue – even bypass – the family as a basic unit of socialization. But it’s within the family that children learn to love by seeing love demonstrated; learn unselfishness both through teaching and through example…learn conflict resolution by figuring out how to get along with parents and with each other.
In pulling her children out of extra activities, Megan Nix not only freed herself from anxiety and busyness, but she also gifted her children with precious time to observe and interact with the two people who care about them most. Might our children be better prepared for future successes if they grew up spending more time with their parents, within the more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere of the family?
[Image Credit: Max Pixel]
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.