As much fun as it is to watch local reprobates demolish automobiles for your amusement, eventually you have to take a break, go get a hot dog and a beer and find a quieter, more wholesome pursuit at the County Fair. Maybe there’s some butter sculptures to see, or a pie eating contest, or a demonstration of pioneer handicrafts. Wherever you find your bliss. Well after many weeks of terrible parenting memes here at the IMDD, this Memorial Day Weekend, (the unofficial start of summer in the good old USA,) we’re taking a break from the snark and the bile and the stoopid and passing along a Parenting Meme that have made us happy recently.
Stop the Glorification of Busy
This one resonated with the general thrust of the post about Hustle I wrote a little bit ago. I found it at the Facebook Page Elevating Childcare, Facebook home of Janet Lansbury, whose blog looks like a great place for parents of infants to toddlers to check out.
Busy has a lot of deservedly positive connotations in our culture. If one owns a store, one would like it to be busy, with lots of customers buying whatever it is you are selling. We describe a thriving downtown as busy. A good employee might be “busy as a bee”.
On the other hand, we have a disturbing tendency, at least in US American culture, to see “busy” as an ends in and of itself rather than a means to an end. The late (and sorely missed) comedian Bill Hicks summed it up well;
“Bosses! You know what I always use to get from my boss… “Hick’s how come you’re not working?” I’d go there’s nothing to do and he’d go “Well you pretend like your working son!” and I’d go why don’t you pretend I’m working… You get paid more than me, you fantasize. Shit, pretend I’m mopping… I’ll pretend they’re buying shit and we can close up… Hey, I’m the boss now your fired! How’s that for a fantasy sir?
It’s a useless relic of the fabled “Protestant Work Ethic”, the perverse ideology that enshrined industry as sacred and leisure as sinful sloth. Yet we extend that rotten attitude so often to our children. Our schools pile them with test prep and hours of homework, then we parents schedule every minute of their free time with after school activities, from piano practice to dance class to soccer leagues. We obsess over the amount of “screen time” our kids use up, some parents dolloping TV shows out as rewards for sufficient achievement, never considering the idea that our kids might be crashed on the couch because they are literally tired both mentally and physically from all the stuff we have them doing.
I understand the impulse. There is an incredible amount of pressure on us (mostly white middle class US American parents) to effectively and actively “raise” our progeny so as to avoid them dropping out of our precarious perch in the middle class. There is a very real sense that any downtime is wasted time, time that can be filled with enrichment activities or character building, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. At least we’ll have them looking busy.
So here’s a challenge for the Grounded Parents out there, consider doing things at your kids’ pace this summer. Consider how many camps they really need to go to, how much soccer practice they really need. Consider that the times when kids are given the option to do nothing are often the times when they let their imagination fly free and they end up really doing something with their time, something special of their own that the whole family can cherish.
So have a happy Memorial Day Weekend parents in the US, a happy summer to the rest of the Northern Hemisphere (Southern Hemisphere people, put on a sweater). We’ll be back soon with more snark and more bad parenting memes, I promise.
Featured Image Credit: LA County Fair, Wikimedia Commons