When I imagine childhood, I think Calvin and Hobbes. I imagine flights of imagination, constant expression, adventure and a thrill of exploring the world in my own brain. I imagine Charlie Brown and Snoopy and the endlessness of their free time which is unaccounted for. I imagine staring at the stars and the clouds and wondering what my next flight in space will look like.
And yet, this is not how the childhood of our children looks like. There is tennis, there is piano, there is gymnastics, there is soccer and then there is also kumon. There are codes to learn and there are science experiments to be done. Every minute of their life is accounted for as structured time.
Alvin Rosenfield is the most quoted man on "over scheduling". As per him, while each single activity has merit by itself, together it leaves parents and children frazzled and keeps children from developing self reliance and self esteem.
Parents today want to structure a "perfect upbringing" for their child. "This is the world they will deal with", is what I often hear from parents. "Everyone is doing it today, their childhood can't be like ours", is another common refrain.
There is so much emphasis on achievment and activities, that we often forget a piece of our identity is also the "self" and the "character". We forget a part of our human existence is practicing empathy and kindness. A part of our human existence is reflection and above all a part of our human existence is doing nothing. The time when we restructure our brains and truly create.
Children need unscheduled time. They need downtime. The time when they can meander into their own worlds, dream, imagine and create. The time with their own self and time when they can draw their own unique story.
They need time when they do nothing. Time to connect with their inner world and thats the time when creativity strikes.
I can't but end this article with some self reflection as a parent from my favorite cartoon strip.
What I like most is doing nothing!”said Christopher Robin.
Winnie the Pooh asked: “How do you do just nothing?”
Christopher Robin replied: “Well, when grown-ups ask, “What are you going to do?”and you say, “Nothing” and then you go and do it.
Winnie the Pooh answered, “I like that. Let’s do it all the time!”