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Kristin Shaw Headshot

In Celebration of Do-Nothing Days

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Most of my days are made up of minutes crowding out minutes; seconds squeezed up against each other like matchsticks in a box. The days fly by and the routine is rote, but comforting. Our son knows what comes next in our day: breakfast, play, lunch, play, dinner, bath, books, and bedtime. It's never really quite that simple.

As often as we can manage, we celebrate do-nothing days. Nothing is planned and anything is possible.

Last Sunday, we stayed in our pajamas until I decided to stick my head out of the back door and see how cold the wind was blowing. My son requested a walk, and on a do-nothing day, I try my best to say "yes" more than "no." You want to play trucks? Yes. You want to play basketball in the house? Yes. You want cookies for a snack? Yes.

We finally donned "real clothes" -- jeans, fleece jackets, down vests and hats -- and walked out the door. The day was quiet, and no one else was on the sidewalk. Hand in hand, we walked down the hill and played "I spy" with leafy wreaths on front doors, bright red berries on landscaped bushes and chirping birds in the trees. Every time we'd get to a cross street, he would hold up his little arms and say, "Pick you up, Mama."

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Photo by Jennifer Rustgi Photography

We walked past some tennis courts at the end of the street and picked up a tennis ball, and the sound of his laughter as he threw it over the net pealed like music to my ears. When he tripped and fell, I hugged him and dried his tears, and when I made a show of telling the tennis court to stop being so mean, his tears turned to giggles.

He tired out in the middle of our mini-journey, and I picked him up and carried him halfway home, my back protesting the 34-pound addition to our walk back uphill. I nuzzled his tiny nose and pressed my cheek to his, savoring these moments. Time was moving slowly and the seconds yawned and stretched, defying their constraints.

By the time we returned home, we had our fill of fresh air and exercise, and we had the rare opportunity to pause time, just for a few moments. There are too many days of too much busy time. We rush by in a hurry to get to the next milestone: If I can just get through this work day. If I can just get through this week. If I can get through this month it will be calmer.

The truth is, slowing down takes more effort.

It's easy to roll downhill and pick up speed; it's much harder to actively say no (I like Scary Mommy's resolution), dig your heels into the dirt and stop the momentum. The pressure to move and be "productive" is high; sometimes, adjusting the definition of success is all it takes for a new speed setting.

At bedtime every night, time slows down again. After bath, books and brushing teeth, I turn out the light and we snuggle on the recliner in the glow of the nightlight. We whisper our prayers and I tell him stories about when he was born or what he did when he was a baby. We say "ba ba ba" and laugh; he is wondrous that he couldn't talk or walk. On very special nights, he falls asleep in my arms as our conversation drifts and we just rock.

I stopped making annual resolutions many years ago, but if I were to make one, it would be this:

Continue to slow down. Enjoy more do-nothing days.

The do-nothing days mean so much more than the do-too-much days.