Today is the last week day before new school term starts for us – the last Friday morning we will be off for a while. I thought about doing something grand to make good use of this last day – like going to Ocean Park or even Disneyland, or sorting out a lesson plan from some homeschool links I just received. But in the end we just stayed home, reading some books, painting and drawing. It was so good, quiet and soulful. We didn’t put any music on – so the atmosphere was just serene. It was a great way to spend a free morning.
It makes me think of a conversation with a friend of mine who claims herself an introvert. Although she appears very social, she said she actually needs twice as much time being alone as being “social”, i.e. out and about, interacting. She said being alone and doing hẻ own things helps her recenter and regain her energy. I think that is a very important understanding of self – introvert or not – to acknowledge the need to be quiet and alone. And I have come to believe that is an important practice for kids as much as for adults.
Kids these days are so busy. Starting next week Bean will have school three mornings a week, soccer one morning. Afternoons are for playdates and being outdoors. For a Hong Kong kid, that is probably a very relaxed schedule already, compared to many others who run from playgroup to sports to music back to back everyday. Still, there is only ONE morning left during the week for her (and me) to, like today, sleep in lazily, choose a fun, relaxed, spontaneous activity to devote the morning energy to, without any rush to get dressed to be somewhere. One day a week for a two-year-old! Since when have they become such busy bees?
The more she grows up, the more I treasure this time we can carve out for her to just be, like today. No appointment, no structure, no lesson plans, no social activities. She can do anything she wants, be it play with paint, kinetic sand, or some silly old toys, for as long as she wants, without the rush to finish because class time is over. I believe this type of free-play, quiet time nourishes and replenishes the soul for the kids the same way it is for us to sit alone with a cup of coffee, curl in the blanket to read a favorite book, or wander around by ourselves – some type of “me-time” activity we all want to have regularly to keep our balance in check. And to think about it, this is not hard to reinforce – all it takes is a mindfulness to the level of energy that the bubs are spending on structured activities, be it a class or a playdate, and ensure that they have some space and time alone (well, with you) to slow down, recenter, gain that energy back. Even if you are not there, the alternative caregiver – your mom, your helper, etc. – can do it too.
As the busy new school year starts, may we all remember this important “me-time” for our little ones. We will teach them a very important skill that prepares them for adulthood. As someone famously said, “There is nothing more freeing and empowering than learning to like your own company.” x