I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about happiness and how I spend my time and how my kids spend their time. Their new school year has started and I want them to be happy just like every other mom. I want them to like their teachers and their teachers to like them. I want them to enjoy what they are learning and have friends to eat lunch with when they walk into the cafeteria. I sit here at my desk looking at my September calendar already quite full with soccer and football and basketball and horseback riding and dance. Not one of my kids is too over scheduled but for me as the mom who has to get them to all their activities, it can be a bit overwhelming.
As I looked at the calendar yesterday afternoon, I thought about their free time. They had lots of free time over the summer to hang out with friends at the pool, play basketball in the driveway, or watch a favorite movie. But now that school is in session, how will they choose to spend their free time?
So last night at dinner, I gave everyone a piece of paper and a pencil.
"Oh, no, what's this for?" one asked.
"School has started and mom's giving us a test," another replied.
"I want everyone to write 5 things down that you enjoy doing in your free time," I told them.
"It's some sort of trick, I know it," was another response.
Then Timmy said to the others, "You might want to be careful of the order you write everything because the last time I got in trouble, mom made me write all my electronics in order of how much I enjoy them and then she took them all away from me for a punishment and I had to earn each one back in order of least favorite to most favorite."
Then Shannon said, "I don't know if I should write down what I really like to do or what she wants to hear. If I write reading, she'll know I'm lying because everyone knows I don't like to read!"
It was just too funny the panic that arose from simply asking the question, "What do you like to do in your free time?" They were all wondering, "Why...why does she want to know this and what is she going to do with this information?"
I really just was curious as to what they would write down if asked the question, "What are 5 things you enjoy doing in your free time?"
So I told them that I would go first. The first thing I wrote down was documenting our life, whether it's taking pictures, Project Life, or this blog, I enjoy all of it. Number 2 was read. The next two were ride my bike and bake, and then I told them that I don't do these enough. When we go to Kiawah, I really love going out in the morning and riding our bikes but when we are at home, my bike is hanging up on the wall, in a hard to reach place and I really should make more of an effort to do this activity that I enjoy. It was the same thing with baking. I used to bake a lot more years ago but now it has gotten harder to find the time. My last activity on my list was watching Gilmore Girls on DVD. The series no longer airs but we have the DVD's and when there is nothing on TV and I just need to veg-out, I'll pop an episode in. Shannon enjoys the show as well so it is one thing that I can actually say I have in common with my teenage daughter.
So after I went through my list, everyone seemed to settle down and wrote their 5 things on their list. We went around the table and they shared their lists. Chris had golf and fishing on his list and then one of the kids said, "But you hardly ever do those things!?!?"
That was exactly my point! Do we do the things that we enjoy? Do we make time in our everyday life to have a little bit of fun? I asked the kids to look at their lists and I said, "You have 5 things on your list. Do you do one thing more than the others? Do you spend most of your time playing xbox and maybe not enough time doing something else that you enjoy on your list?"
I just wanted them to think about their time and how they spend it. I just wanted to plant the seed that if you watch a little less TV and play a little less xbox, that they would have more time for the other things on their list.
Then our dinner continued, our conversations went to other subjects, and stories were told. Did I get my point across? I don't know. But parenting is about planting one little seed at a time and then revisiting that seed every once in a while to nourish it and hope that the seed you planted starts to take root in their heads.
Now, that I'm finished writing this blog (documenting our life, number 1 on my list) I am going to order Gretchen Rubin's new book Happier at Home that was released today (read, number 2 on my list).