This past month was great, but didn’t really feel like I had any down time, probably because, um, I didn’t. The last weekend in August hit, and suddenly over Labor Day weekend, we had four non-stop days of parties, festivals, and social gatherings, and from there, we never really lost steam. We had theatre tickets, apple-picking, bridal showers, game nights, social events, and while it was fun, it was also go, go, go, pretty much non-stop all September.
I find myself — as I’ve gotten older and grown more into my identity as an adult who is actually able to make their own plans — feeling like I need to fill every possible opportunity with activity, and I’ve found that’s become doubly so since having my son. I can’t tell you exactly why that is – or, I guess, I don’t think I can narrow it down to one thing. Part of it is that I lived a fairly sheltered and socially deprived life as a child and young adult, and I often feel like I need to “make up” for all the freedom I never got to have during my formative years. Part of it is, when I have down time, it’s really down time; I wind up being almost entirely sedentary, and my ADHD keeps me from doing anything really constructive (even those things I want to do and enjoy doing). Having a place to be or an activity to do that is externally scheduled and structured is one of the few ways to guarantee I get out and engage.
But part of it, more and more, is that I feel like I need to be proactive and conscientious about not saddling my son with the stagnant, asocial childhood I had.
I didn’t have anything resembling a social life for, well, most of my life. There were never any sports teams, never any dance lessons, or swim lessons, or gymnastics. No Girl Scouts. A lot of it was because my parent’s didn’t have the money for so much of what makes up a busy, structured youth – our grammar schools were tiny and private (read: where all the money was going), and didn’t offer any extra-curriculars; dance and gymnastics were pricey; and my folks had neither the time, energy, nor inclination to have to put forth the effort for something like Girl Scouts. Even trips out to eat or to the movies were few and far between.
And I get that. Bear is an only child and loves to sing and dance, so I’ve sat and priced out a number of music and dance academies, and I can appreciate how my parents – who had three kids and were already also paying tuition for our private schooling – must have felt overwhelmed by the potential cost.
But there were also no bike riding lessons. There were very few trips to the park, or to the pool. There weren’t many festivals or fairs, very few events, activities, or parties. Trips to the library were sporadic at best, and I ha only one friend whose house I was allowed to visit. I didn’t go to a birthday party until I was thirteen, and I had to fight tooth and nail for that, years after most of my classmates had given up inviting me to parties I was never allowed to attend. Hell, there was barely even any plying outside. We could get hurt on bikes and skateboards and everyone in our neighborhood was looking to do us in, if you were to believe my parents. Our time even in our own yard was infrequent.
And I don’t want that for my son. I don’t want my son to be the kid who is never allowed to go out, and never learns age-appropriate social skills; I don’t want to be the parent that turns around and uses the fact of their lack of social skills as reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to go out. I don’t want my son to grow up and realize at thirty-six he has virtually no memories of his childhood because he basically didn’t have one, because had so few stand-out moments and formative experiences.
I feel like we’re doing an ok job. My son’s goes to parks and fairs and parties, and at 3, has already been on a plane more times than I had by the time I was 30. We go to restaurants and the library, and while I hesitate to spend $14 on a movie ticket when I’m sure he’ll spend most of the time climbing on the seats, he’s been to several free outdoor movie nights. We’re doing ok.
We’ll see what opportunities October brings, and what memories we can make.