Notice that when you ask people how they are, among the two most common answers are 1. “fine” and 2. “busy”. The former is a polite way of signalling disinterest in continued conversation, the latter is stated as a badge of worth.
So busy we are that we coordinate schedules with friends weeks in advance for simple coffee dates. We push ourselves to our whit’s end, holding on to the prospect of a two week vacation, or worse yet, retirement.
I recently read with interest an opinion piece in the New York Times about “busyness”. The author, Tim Krieder believes we are driven to a frenzied state of busy out of “dread of what we might have to face in its absence”. I find it fascinating that we may simultaneously lament the frenetic pace of our lives while actively constructing our day to day to ensure avoiding…ourselves.
Krieder adeptly points out that we are passing this same compulsion onto our children. By over-programming them, we implicitly teach them that being busy is “good”, “responsible”, “productive”. But do we consider the downside?
Some time ago, and I wish I had the source to share, I read an article that argued that scheduling kids as we are, is certain to have a detrimental impact on their creativity.
It’s both logical and frightening that a child used to regularly moving from school then to a growing list of extracurricular activities, might be puzzled in the face of “free time”. The article cited an example of such a child who was simply told to play in that free time. How saddening it was when they asked “play what?”
But we have a choice. And the choice starts with looking at busyness with a critical eye - understanding what drives us to do what we do and what we are getting from it. I am guilty of feeling proud of my busyness – juggling a variety of elective responsibilities all the time. Perhaps it’s out of fear of being associated to anything remotely resembling lazy.
I remind myself that downtime does not have to equate to laziness. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar as they say. So take your free time, enjoy it, and let's let our kids be kids while they can.