"I just don't know about this half day kindergarten bit," I overheard a young mother lamenting to her friend. "He comes home from school and eats lunch, but then the afternoon just stretches out in front of us forever," as she feigned a dramatic collapse. Her friend smiled and nodded sympathetically, "I know what you mean. There are a few library programs or occasional swim lessons, but really, what are we supposed to do to keep our kids entertained for all that time between lunch and dinner?"
I looked around at my own three little ones wandering about my feet. One was busying himself with the contents of the diaper bag and the other two had created an impromptu game involving princesses and some derivation of ring-around-the-rosy. Was I, or more importantly, my children missing something in the afternoon hours spent at home with me, their pint-sized calendars full of white space?
As I gathered my brood to leave, I overheard the son of the distraught mother whining to her, "Mommy, what are we going to do now???" And my heart went out to her as I saw her shrug her weary shoulders and gesture to her friend, "See what I mean?"
When did it become our role as parents to also act as cruise directors for a ship ready to mutiny if our activity schedule doesn't entertain 24-7?
My older children recall not the time spent with me at some exotic location or trendy kidspot, but the memories born of a lazy afternoon where boredom provided inspiration. They remember walking through our yard, barren but for a dozen or so young saplings to check on their growth and discovering--much to our surprise--a family of birds nesting within. They remember their decision to hand wash the car on a hot summer's day that turned into a full-blown water fight. They remember the time we opted to take all of the recycling boxes in the house and turn them into makeshift doll (and in the case of the larger boxes-people) houses. There have been tea parties, picnics, story times and containers of play-doh that have wrought bonds stronger than any super-glue could ever hope to do. And there have been quiet times talking, sharing memories or poking around my old jewelry drawer as they tried on their great grandmother's engagement ring and pondered their connection to someone whom they only know from pictures.
Have my kids missed out? I don't think so. And when they get older, I hope they'll look back and say they agree.