I don’t know about you, but once September comes along, I automatically fast forward to December. I am the mother of a school-aged daughter so the final quarter of the year is one whirlwind of back to school events, fall festivals, Halloween, parent-teacher conferences, fundraisers, Thanksgiving, concerts, performances, tournaments, Christmas and winter recess. I get my holiday shopping done by October because that’s almost how early the retailers start blitzing me with ads. Holiday shows and music turn up as soon as we’re done trick or treating!

It’s hard to wrap my head around this phenomenon of having to prep months ahead of time for a holiday event. What happened to savoring and living in the moment? When I talk to other parents, I hear similar stories that nobody actually lives in the present. We are all conditioned to pre-register for this or that if we want our children to get an edge. You don’t dare wait a month to do something because you’ll get shut out. I see parents checking their planners six months in advance to make sure they’re available!

I used to worry that my daughter wouldn’t be able to potty train in time to get into pre-K. Then once she started school I would stress over how much time she’d have to eat lunch, have enough academic instruction and social interaction. As she got older and homework and extra curricular activities increased, I began to sound like a broken record by repeating multiple times a day: finish your homework, eat dinner, take a bath and get ready for bed. I still remember my incredulity when I read a letter from the school recommending that elementary school children should get 10-12 hours of sleep per day. When you calculate that children are spending at least 7 hours in school, not including after care, how does a parent accomplish this? Last I checked there are only 24 hours in a day. This would mean I would have to get my daughter ready for bedtime as soon as I picked her up from school.

This fear of not having enough time to get everything done has made a lot of families oblivious to what quality time really means. If we can carve out an hour here, an hour there, that’s a pretty big deal. When I talked to my daughter about Christmas, she said she hasn’t had time to think about it because her teachers are trying to cram in as much work in the remaining weeks left. Even limiting the number of activities my daughter is involved in this year, hasn’t alleviated rehearsal and practice times.

So what’s a person to do? I propose a self-enforced “time out” the minute that last school bell rings on December 23rd. We are not going shopping or running errands the next day. We will stay home and actually sit down together as a family. We will eat late, sleep late and enjoy each other’s company for a change. I only wish we didn’t have to wait until Christmas to do this. We should be able to take time for ourselves more frequently than just during “the most wonderful time of the year”. If we don’t impose this moratorium, life will only continue to get busier and busier. As the saying goes, another bus will come along in 10 minutes and we can always get on that one if we miss this one. 

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