By David DeWitt
The other day I was trying to get Finn’s attention. He was sitting in a chair staring off into space. I can’t remember why it was important for me to interrupt him but nevertheless I did.
“Finn,” I said for the third or fourth time.
“I’m off duty,” he replied.
“Really?” I said. “What exactly does that mean?”
“I’m just not doing anything,” he said matter-of-factly.
I kind of wondered what being “on duty” meant for him but I didn’t inquire further.
I’m sure he was repeating what one of us might have said when we were in the middle of something and attempted to “pass the baton” so to speak.
“Talk to Mommy. I’m off duty.”
Would I say that?
Regardless, I don’t think it’s really possible to be off duty as a parent once you become one. You never stop thinking about your child for more than a moment or two.
Even on date nights we inevitably spend half the time talking about Finn.
Summer is the season for taking time off. The rising temps and heavy humid air naturally slows you down. So it’s no wonder we want to get away for awhile.
There is an art to vacationing and it often takes as much effort as not. The expense, the supplies, the planning, the packing, unpacking, packing again. How much time one actually spends relaxing depends on so many things.
I’ve personally become more fond of spontaneous days off and evenings in the backyard when Finn and his friends are playing independently. Or little family day trips.
Recently, I’ve read about the significance of children having time off from scheduled events in the summer. The importance for them to experience boredom so they can learn, with proper guidance, how to deal with it.
Who knew that lying in the grass staring at the clouds is actually valuable and important? Well, we all probably knew it intuitively. But for some reason, having a study to confirm it offers some sense of satisfaction.
I’ve never had a problem with being bored. If there is one thing I know how to do, it’s to contemplate. Creativity springs from contemplation. Taking the first step in a project beyond contemplation usually presents more challenges for me.
An even bigger challenge is turning off the creative brain. Giving it a rest. Not thinking about what “the next thing” should be. That, for me is the hardest part of vacationing. Putting everything on hold.
That’s where Finn is a huge help. He’s so in the moment that when we’re watching him, it’s almost impossible not to be present as well. It’s something I had noticed well before Finn came along. Children have the innate ability to be here now.
Of course there are other ways to quiet the mind. Crashing waves. A walk in the woods.
But there’s nothing that quiets the mind as well as observing a little one who’s “off duty.”