Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Too much of a good thing

I've been toying with a more structured approach to our days for a little while. Not that I want it, mind you.

I've tried in the past to wrestle our schedule in to some semblance of an order, but can never stay on it for long. The fact of the matter is, I am absolutely loathe to interrupt one good thing for another, and that's exactly what a schedule generally feels like to me. Example: you have set aside forty-five minutes for an art activity. That three-quarters of an hour has passed, but everyone is still happily working away. What to do? The schedule says that now it's time to move on to something else--
something just as worthy of your time, mind you. Do you throw caution to the wind and stick with the successful art experience, or abandon ship and move on?

I'm a stay-with-what-works kind of girl. In general, my kids are as well. They also have devised frighteningly inventive and imaginative ways to occupy themselves--ways that keep them solidly from underfoot and meaningfully engaged in one of the pastimes I value most in children: play.

But it's the "keeping them from underfoot" part that I find myself taking a bit of advantage of. Do you have any idea how freeing it is for a writer who has fought tooth and nail for a mere thirty minutes at the keyboard for the past decade of her life to suddenly find herself with entire afternoons stretching before her?

"Is this even possible?" you ask yourself. The answer, in my house, is

I have found as of late that my children have begun--over the course of the past year, I realized belatedly--to go from their required afternoon rest period of an hour and an half into a long stint of sustained, quiet, away-from-mommy play. Writing and performing plays. Building elaborate villages from Lincoln Logs and reenacting key battles in the Civil War. Setting up extensive veterinary clinics and treating a variety of stuffed animals. Reading aloud to one another.

Sounds like heaven, doesn't it?

Well, it is. Kind of. Except ...

That's not what I want.

While I love, love,
love my afternoon writing time, I do not want to have it at the expense of my children. An hour and a half, I think, it in no way afflicting my 10, 7 and 5 year olds. They are happily curled up in their respective beds, reading, listening to books on tape, coloring or otherwise entertaining themselves. This, I believe, is a good thing. A respite from the day's busyness. A rest time in the truest sense.

But the extended period ... I don't know if that is something that I want to make a habit. A few times a week, yes, it's lovely. But what about all the books we aren't reading? The games we aren't playing? The cookies we're not baking? The times I could be pouring into their hearts, or them into mine ... they are passing me by as I sit in front of the computer and pound out stories.

I never thought I'd say this, but here it is:

I don't want my children to be quite so comfortable with me being unavailable.

And that's where this whole scheduling thing comes in. I'm making a concerted effort to stick more closely to the priorities that I have set in my heart and mind when it comes to how I spend my time. Being with my children--present physically, emotionally and spiritually--is one of them. It's a sad statement that I have to mark a starting and ending time to a good thing (me writing) to make way for another good thing (time with my family). But apparently, I do need that discipline after all.


Dawn said...

It sounds to me like you will be able to come up with a good balance of the two. I'm impressed that your children can play so independently for so long, and with such creative and inventive games. It would be interesting for you to share sometime what you have done to create an environment where they can play like you've described. Many kids don't know how to play well independently.

SmallWorld said...

Coming up with that balance is always a challenge, and I find that what works for a few months may not work down the line. Flexibility is my best friend. It is so awesome that your kids play so well independently. That will serve them--and you--well for years to come!
PS I'm having a Valentine's Day contest--perhaps you can spend an afternoon writing your love story!

Stacy said...

I have to watch out for this at my house, too. My kids are SO great at independent play, and they truly can go for hours of play with little intervention from me. Crazy to most, I realize. I keep all the toys on the main floor of the house for this very reason (even though our playroom is on another floor). I want to keep them near me!