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Where Did All the Downtime Go?

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Kerry Lyons
Kerry Lyons

Remember what it was like to sleep in? Lounge in your pajamas and read the paper? Come home from work and crash in front of the TV? Spend weekends exploring the mall or the great outdoors? Remember when you had empty days just waiting to be filled? Hours of free time on your calendar? Well, parenthood changes all that -- which doesn't come as much of a surprise given parenthood is punctuated by the arrival of a small, helpless human who needs you 24/7 and likely has you awestruck. The surprise for me, with children who are now 4 (x3 -- triplets!), 6 and 8, is how little downtime they have -- and we have -- as a family.

I've done my best to avoid scheduling every hour of their days; to resist the pressure to fill their afternoons and weekends with music lessons, dance lessons, language lessons or sports. Even so, these things inevitably creep in and our days (and with alarming frequency, nights!) get quickly filled. With birthday parties alone, our weekends can be like a carnival; add in a few kids with basketball practice and suddenly, it's like we're all part of a minivan carousel nightmare -- in, out, up, down, round and round -- until we finally get out of the car at the end of the day, dizzy, dazed and desperate for a quiet moment.

I yearn for those moments. I yearn for lazy Saturday mornings spent lounging in pajamas -- not for my sake (although, it sure would be nice to catch up on some sleep!), but for our sake. We need them. We cherish those moments. And they are far too rare.

We recently had a Saturday with "nothing" to do. Our "nothing" included haircuts for five, a trek to the mall for new sneakers and stocking up at Costco but even so, this was still a welcome "slow" day. A day when we didn't need to divide and conquer with my husband running this way to basketball practice and me running that way to a birthday party. Although we had to run a few errands, we ran them together. All seven of us. And then we ran home. All seven of us. And then we kicked off our shoes, plunked down on the couch and, as a fire burned in the fireplace and the sun set behind us, we exhaled. With legs entwined, hands held and heads on shoulders. We found a movie we all enjoyed, snuggled in and even snoozed a bit. We had our moment. And it was very, very good.

As the ending credits rolled and the embers in the fireplace quietly crackled, I realized that perhaps I've come full circle. I actually spent part of that day strolling the mall and part of it flopped on the couch. Just like the good old days. Only better. And it struck me that while these moments in our life are rare, they are out there. And it's up to us to make more of them.