The Work of Children

Apparently what Ian’s teacher says is true: the work of children is play.

Yesterday’s top story in parenting news was a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics: ‘The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds‘. Both CNN and NPR covered the report, CNN focusing on younger children, NPR on teenagers.

Our children are so invovled in make-me-smarter schools and look-what-he-can-do classes that they’re left with no time to play. No time to be themselves. As a result, kids are experiencing more stress, depression, and the side-effects of both. Their imagination and creativity is being stunted.

Ian goes to school two mornings each week. On Wednesday nights, we have dinner at church, after which we go to choir and he goes to catechism. We’ve been thinking of taking him to dance class.

Part of Ian’s lack of involvement is because we’re lazy and have little money for djembe lessons. Besides, we like the quiet. But more than that, we’re fiercely protective of our family’s time. As a teacher, Kelly is all too familiar with students who have jobs, choir practice, baseball, debate, youth group, play rehearsal, and lectures on synchronized semaphore. And occasional homework. They run themselves ragged. Listen to the interviews of the NPR report, and you’ll know what I mean.

I also spend 50% of my waking, weekday hours away from my wife and son. Why should I make that any worse so that Ian can do inverse functions before he can tie his shoes? Ian doesn’t need a social calendar or academic advisor. He needs to run around in circles and fix our dishwasher with a hammer.

Last Saturday, Ian and I spent the morning before lunch playing in the backyard. I tried making baskets into the tower of his Playskool castle. He was a dragon, and breathed fire on me because I was cold. Then he made me hot chocolate.

[Update: Dad in Progress discusses an essay in Time on media distortion and the myth of the over-achieving family.]

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