Protecting your down time

?I want summer to feel like summer again…. Unfettered by adults? fears. Unshackled from adults? expectations. Feel to play?yes, even as teenagers?free to live their own lives and learn something about who they are, and who they hope to be… in an afternoon that would turn into evening, with little regard for bedtime or what was on the schedule for tomorrow. I want 10 weeks of deep breaths and exhales. What bloomed there was resourcefulness, imagination and something that is so scarce even amid plenty today, a sense of self.? ?JULIE LYTHCOTT-HAIMS, NYT

?You?re just protecting your time.? This is how a friend?who has more experience than me, having raised two adult children and now has adult grandchildren?put into words what I couldn?t.

I questioned what I viewed as my own tendency to do less than average during the summer. By that I mean less of the constant stream of scheduled activities, potlucks, fundraisers, get-togethers, committees, commitments and other abundant ?opportunities.?

I have carried around a lot of guilt about what I don?t do, but in spite of those nagging feeling, I?m still propelled to ?not do? some of it anyway.

My friend assured me that own her daughter and son-in-law felt the same way when they were raising their daughters. She said they made it a point to protect their time with their kids and to say, no, when they felt the need, against expectations, to say, no.

And just maybe, they are better off for it.

So what about summer vacation? I have always had this crazy idea in my head that the school years?the ones from ages 5 to 18?are the only ones when the summer months can actually translate into a summer break.

Is that so wrong? It?s very likely that this will be the only chance for kids to do kid things while being an actual kid.

As adults, we all know how quickly that opportunity passes. I am partial to the lazy days of summer because long ago and far away, I had them myself. I remember summer as something special. Carefree, easy days with air conditioning or the pool, ice cream, or maybe just the couch and a cassette recording of that week?s American Top 40.

And I?m OK for it.

?It?s hard for an individual family to resist the trend, and even harder to protect our children from feeling lesser because?at least from a resume perspective?they?ve done less,? said writer Julie Lythcott-Haims in a New York Times article. ?But doing ?nothing? isn?t nothing. It?s doing the regular share of family stuff as well as… cooking, drawing… reading… feeling bored… washing cars… learning how to drive, going for a swim… daydreaming in the hammock.

This stuff?the natural stuff of life before we organize everything?enables young people to get acquainted with themselves, which is essential to building their well-being.?

I love this idea and hope (actually, already entirely believe) that it?s true. As a downtime advocate, I happily extend it to my kids, too. This isn?t to say I don?t spend time feeling guilty about not pushing more, more often, but I don?t expect to regret it.

It?s not a bad idea to learn to just be with yourself sometimes. And feel comfortable doing so.

And that skill, along with time itself, is worth protecting.

Shelley Plett is a graphic designer for the Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ventures. You can reach her at shelley@hillsborofree?

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