National Gallery of Art, Jean-Honore Fragonard
What types of activities should I be doing with my kids? It is a question I have asked myself countless times and even ask friends what they do after school. I know there are things to be done, and that they need to play, but I wanted to put the use of time in a context that saw the big picture. And then I happened upon a tiny but luminous idea presented by one of my favorite authors, Jane Austen, in one of my favorite books, Sense and Sensibility. Austen presents one family's surprise with the industrious use of time in the other, and In the few sentences it took to form this clear image, I found the exact idea that I was seeking! Yes, youth is a time for playing and exploring, but also a time for learning the value of time and how it can be well spent through the pursuit of healthy and helpful activities along-side fun adventures. It is all time well spent. Thanks again, Jane!
Childhood forms how we think of life, the importance of the time we have at our disposal, and how we view ourselves and others. How much of our adult life is spent perceiving the present reality through the lense we first viewed it? That is, much of how we do things as adults is affected by our acute and habitual memory. One day, our children will be relying on their own acute memory and habits, ones we are helping to shape as we speak.
Childhood is a chance to form good habits and lifelong skills that bring one joy and promote good use of time. The way I see it, the more i can impart good habits, methods of thinking, skills, thoughtfulness, and a quest for beauty to my children, the more time they will have in their adult life for doing the things that God asks and that bring joy to themselves and others. They will innately know how to spend their time. They will not be going against the grain as adults, trying to learn a skill they need, which takes precious time and sometimes an entire re-wiring of the way to look at something, which can even be a painful endeavor, almost requiring new eyes, if you will. A run of the mill event can even be viewed from this positivistic angle. For example, one of the things we do on a daily basis in childhood is learn how to habitually pick up our toys. Besides creating a habit of order, one is learning how much time tidying up takes and how to speed up the process as one grows. When else will a person learn how to clean ( or any number of things) if not in childhood? It is a worthwhile, positive endeavor to teach and allow time for this, folks!
Through the daily routine, we are helping to form our children's ideas about food, work ethic, relationships, and seeing God as a Father, Friend, and Helper, and so, very much a part of the day. As a consequence of this mind frame of using time well, I decided to finally teach one of my children how to play piano and am so very glad for it. I am seeing the reality of its being a very good use of time for a child, along with playing with siblings.
I will leave off with questions for us all to ponder: What do we strive to communicate about life to our children? Do these values enter our day or week, naturally? There is little time to loose! :)