How My Child Accidentally Taught Me To Lighten Up

Photo: fizkes / Shutterstock
woman holding hands against her heart

The children are rarely done eating dinner before I’m popping up to do the dishes (in my defense, however, it takes them three times as long as it should). If I have a moment of idle time (you know, that one time that happened), I’m looking around for something to make, to clean, to do, to read.

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And in the waiting room before an appointment? You’ll never catch me without at least a recent magazine and a fresh ebook on my iPad.

I’m good at staying busy, but I’m not good at being idle. And by that, I’d have to say that I’m not good at relaxing or finding creative ways to entertain myself that aren’t at their root productive activities.

I don’t think I realized how serious I’d become until recently when my little girl accompanied my husband to one of his regular ultimate Frisbee games, an hour of intense exercise that’s way tougher than it sounds. She and some of the other Frisbee players’ offspring entertained themselves while the dads played. In a big field.

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There was no TV.

Other than a couple of bikes, there weren’t any fancy toys.

There were children, grass, and trees.

And the fun they had blown my mind. They explored the field thoroughly and employed more imagination than I realized they had. A large tree root became a dinosaur bone and excavating it made them archeologists.

They tried to determine what to do with their find; donate it to a museum? Sell it and donate the proceeds to charity?

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This went on for two hours until the out-of-breath dads (and some moms, this hand-eye coordination challenged mom excluded) had finished their game and were ready to head home.

In a world of constant forward momentum and a near-steady inflow of information in which I can barely sit still until the end of the day when I’m so tired I nearly collapse onto the couch with a book, it amazed me that my children knew so naturally how to amuse themselves.

It was reassuring, and amazing, and it made me a little sad because all of a sudden I remembered when I knew how to do that. I love the joy that my children bring to my life, and I love the joy that they remind me about, small joys that I forget.

While I probably won’t be uprooting an unsuspecting tree root anytime soon, I did let the clean laundry sit in the living room all day today so I could go sit in the backyard while the children ran around playing.

And I wasn’t idle, but I did grab a canvas and some paint…which was special because I’m not an artist, but, like my sweet and inspirational children, I stretched my imagination. And I have to admit, it felt pretty good.

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Collen Meeks is a freelance writer who writes about relationships, family, and motherhood.