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Lee Woodruff

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Take Back the Weekend

Posted: 01/16/08 03:51 PM ET

I was gabbing on the phone to my friend Amy and we were discussing the upcoming Martin Luther King weekend.

"Wanna go grab dinner and a movie with our kids this weekend?"

"I wish I could," she answered. "We have the school musical revue on Friday and Saturday night. Can you believe it? MLK weekend?"

I snapped like Rambo in the middle of a parking lot. "I'm sick of this, " I sputtered. "It's time to take back the weekends for the American family, dammit! MLK weekend and the school schedules a major musical revue?"

"I have a dream," she said, echoing those famous words of Dr. King himself. "My dream is that we can actually experience family time again on a weekend. "Amen, sister," I answered.

In my day, back when people walked barefoot to school up hill each way -- with wooden teeth -- the weekend was pretty sacred. The average family had time to relax, catch their breath, have a big breakfast and act like, well, a family. A weekend was the antidote to a long week of homework, after school activities and sports.

These days I need a weekend just to recover from my weekend. Our kids' lives are so scheduled and programmed. Like those pesky crabgrass patches in my backyard, over time, sports activities and even school events have encroached not only on weekends, but now even during school vacations.

Woe to the hockey players in my town who have to stay and practice during the Christmas holidays. The lacrosse dudes don't get spring break due to the tournament schedule. Now kids seem to head back to school in early August to get ready for fall sports. That about chops a carefree summer in half. Especially since my son's soccer practice was at the un-godly hour of 7:00 am each summer morning.

Look, I get it. I get our fascination with sports as a country, even if I may not be able to name all the NFL teams. But somewhere, somehow, we have to get some sanity back into family life. And some things have to be sacrosanct. I have two precious years left with my son at home before college. Let me enjoy school vacations in peace. Let us make choices about going away as a family together -- without the guilt of shirking practices. And while I'm at it? Can't we at least get Sundays off? Kids soccer games have now snuck up to coincide with traditional Sunday church times. Worshipping or not, we are certainly packing it all in! By Sunday night I look more like Phyllis Diller and her wild, eggbeater hair than the calm picture of a mother about to enter a new week.

There is an awful lot being written about the demise of the American family. But we are doing it to ourselves. We're so busy chasing our tails, car keys in hand, we don't have time anymore to feel the family fiber; to simply "be."

We need to take a lesson from childrearing experts who teach that we shouldn't fill up every moment in our toddlers' lives. Free play, the ability to use their imaginations, to script their own schedule and to enjoy down time, leads to better adjusted, independent human beings.

I'd like to suggest we do that for our families. Let's start taking it back. Town by town. Just say "no more." It is we parents who have done this to ourselves.

Two days of unstructured time as a family might actually give us a chance to pull out a card game, watch a movie on the DVR together, or cook a great meal on Saturday night before everyone scatters to their friends' houses. I'm not implying we all need to huddle up like Little House on the Prairie. But we could begin to re-establish some rituals.

Take back the weekend, people. If we all just dig in our heels, we might be surprised at the results. We might actually have a moment to reflect on all the good things Martin Luther King did for this country, rather than to treat it as just another manic Monday.

 

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