I happened upon the middle of the conversation, like I usually do at the gym. They were around a corner from me and I recognized them as regulars I often cross paths with, but don't really know either of them. Woman 1: "So my mom was asking when we eat dinner on school nights."
Woman 2, with a knowing laugh: "What suburban kids sit down to dinner anymore?"
Woman 1: "Exactly! I told her that dinner during the week is cheese sticks, crackers, granola bars, bags of baby carrots, anything I can toss at them in the back seat as we're driving from activity to activity."
Woman 2: "Well sure, because by the time everyone is home from all their sports and after school stuff, there's only time for homework and bed."
Woman 1: "It's so different today from when we were kids, kids today have so many opportunities and choices of activities, they're so lucky. We didn't have any of that growing up, we only went outside and played with the neighbors after school. Today kids have to be involved in activities, all the other kids are and there's no one around for them to play with!"
Honestly, my head was spinning and my heart was sinking as I overheard the conversation. Is this really what we've come to describe as "lucky?"
Is this really what we want our kids to remember about these years - shuttling around town, routinely eating dinner out of bags and wrappers, all in pursuit of soccer and tae kwon do and gymnastics and music and art lessons? Those things that supposedly make them "well-rounded" and sure, they don't get enough arts and physical activity in school, but even still, what's the cost of this?
What are these kids giving up of themselves in exchange for these "lucky opportunities" and is it a fair trade?
I think not.
The soul and psyche both need time to breathe so they and the child can genuinely acquaint themselves with one another. They need time to stretch and grow; self-discovery doesn't occur while doing, rather it occurs during the quiet times between the doing. As singer Dave Matthews would describe, it's "the space between." By stealing our kids' "space between" (even if they're asking), we're stealing from them something much more valuable, something that pays greater dividends for the rest of their lives - the ability to be at peace with lack of activity, the ability to take time to pause and reflect and check in with themselves, the chance to know themselves as individuals, rather than reflections of the bustling world around them.
Where can you create some "space between" in your own life the lives of your children? And if that requires giving something up, are you prepared for the gifts that come in exchange?