I have yet to meet an American who can sit on the couch covered with Sunday morning newspaper, reading and drinking tea like I can. I believe I go unchallenged in my ability to sit stationary on the floor for long periods of time, watching my young sons push cars as I gaze happily on. I frequent coffee shops with a simple agenda of staring out windows, daydreaming, and ignoring phone calls and invitations to chat.
One might think this strange trait would alter my ability to maintain relationships. One might even pity my poor family. But rest assured, our house is clean, our children fed, and I have a few friends on speed dial to my credit.
However, on my best day, I don't leave the house. The truth is that I am an expert relaxer. A diva of doing nothing. A skilled specialist of staying put. My best dance move is a nice, easy, loosen-the-shoulders, breathe-deep, full-body relax.
Gone are my insecurities that this lackadaisical attitude might lessen my children's chance of socializing successfully or someday getting into a top-notch college. In fact, I actually believe that this posture of nothingness is my best, most productive parenting strategy.
My children and I stay at home whenever possible to paint, cook, sort clothes from the dryer, and hunt for rocks outside. We don't make a habit of scheduling play dates (this sounds too much like an obligation), but love impromptu visits from friends. A walk to the park, if feeling ambitious, suits us fine.
Of course, I've had to get over the idea that busyness equates success, as it does in so many realms of American life. And there was a time that I felt slightly guilty for subjecting my children to my own tendencies and not involving them in more activities. But one week into two- to four-year-old Thursday morning basketball at our local YMCA, I found Oliver more interested in playing with matchbox cars on the sidelines than practicing drills with the other children. We returned every single week for ten weeks (I'm not raising a quitter), but realized with relief that my then two-year-old was much happier embracing the day with the lazy spirit of his mother.
My fourteen-month-old enjoys dancing in the dining room to my favorite CDs. I call this "Music and Movement with Mama" and consider it a private lesson that I don't have to pay or change out of my pajamas for. My three-year-old enjoys cooking, so we make a lot of blueberry muffins and pita pizza. Such one-on-one instruction costs nothing and requires no travel.
And all three of us love "unstructured free time." This is an important sounding name for, "You Do Your Thing and Mommy Will Watch from the Couch." So far my idle attitude has not caused much turmoil. Despite his short resume, Oliver got into a good preschool, and the neighborhood public school has no choice but to accept us for who we are: lazy homebodies with, I believe, a bit more imagination than the average Joe. (All that "unstructured play time" is supposed to do wonders for a kid's creativity.)
There is nothing wrong with involving children in activities that they enjoy. I know many wonderful children who are out and about all day long with their caring, energetic, extrovert parents and caregivers. And I know that as my children get older, I will have to continually evaluate my parenting philosophy to make sure that I am doing the best thing for my kids, not just what best suits my personality.
But I do believe that we all can benefit from staying quiet a bit more often. I keep reading about people taking a "Secular Sabbath" -- a day where cell phones are silenced, laptops kept out of sight, and technology turned off. These days of uninterrupted relaxation can inspire a healthy sigh of relief.
March 10th is National Napping Day. With the approach of this nationally recognized day, I feel vindicated in my tendency toward nothingness and believe that my like-minded comrades might spend the day forgiven, perhaps even celebrated, for our proclivity towards inaction.
Why not give it a shot? Welcome your happy homebody. Kick off your shoes and rest. Curl up with the kids or spend your lunch hour staring out the window, relaxing your shoulders. Take a day, an hour, or even just a moment to do nothing. To me, this nothing amounts to a very important something.