"Home is the nicest word there is."
Laura Ingalls Wilder
The first question Georgia asks me when I pick up her up from school is, "Do we have to go anywhere? Or are we going straight home?"
It wouldn't matter if I said, "We're going to make a quick swing through Disney World," she'd be near tears. The only thing she wants to hear is that we're headed right home and we'll remain there until the end of the day.
She loves to be home. More than anywhere else.
She wants to be in her playroom. She wants to be rearranging the rocks in her 'treasure garden' in the front flower bed. She wants to be watering our seedlings in the basement with daddy. She wants to be making cards at her art table in the kitchen. She wants to be putting on a puppet show behind the orange chair in the front room. She wants to stand on the window ledge in my closet and put on a show.
She wants to be home.
Are there great things that we do and should do outside of the house? Absolutely--and we do--and we love them. Do we always get to be home? Of course not. And sometimes I wish we could run just one more errand without a barrage of reasons why we should just go home, but mostly…..I'm thrilled that she wants to be home. I love that for Georgia, home is a refuge, a safe place, somewhere to be creative, relax, be contented, and just be her. And it's important for me to remind myself of that frequently--when I'm trying to fit in one more thing--for me--that's really not necessary.
I've found myself thinking about this more and more with summer coming up. I'll ask Georgia what she wants to do for the next three months. She'll reply, "run in the sprinkler, get ice-cream from the ice-cream man, play with Fiona, re-decorate my fairy garden, set up the pool everyday, help daddy plant the garden, jump on the trampoline, take a walk to the park, make some more of that jello play-doh, and maybe go to the zoo one time."
For her, the idea of needing to go somewhere is distant. The desire to be here is present.
And I suspect that for many of our kids they might just feel the same way--when given the chance to feel that way. As an educator I see kids on a daily basis who are run ragged with activities and practices and rehearsals and dinners-out that are "good experiences", "enrichment," "character building," and "social know-how," opportunities. And wait--yes--some of them are. There is no argument to that. But I also know as an educator that I also see kids on a daily basis who lack creativity, initiative to figure out how to do something, the ability to just 'be', contentedness with simplicity, and unstructured play.
And I don't think that's a product of our academic educational system. It's a product of parents believing their community rec-leagues and neighbors and athletic programs that kids need to be busy, part of a team, exposed to experiences so they can really figure out what they want to do, and to keep their minds working.
Do I write this to say that all organized and structured activities for kids over the summer or throughout the school year are a problem? Nope--we're signed up for a handful too. I write it to remind myself and everyone else that it's okay to stay home a lot of the time with our kids. To let them get sticky from popsicles by eleven in the morning, to let them play cooking school (for hours) in the backyard consisting of a kiddie pool, grass clippings, and, weeds, to let them draw with sidewalk chalk on the trampoline, to let them lay around for an hour when it's really hot out and watch a show, to show them how to make a bowling alley in your garage with empty 2-litres, to go on a scavenger hunt for their stuffed animals, and to just be.
I think that learning to love being at home is one of the most important steps to raising appropriately contented kids. Help them embrace it this summer by embracing it yourself.