I recently came across this article “Busy is a sickness” on The Huffington Post and it reminded me of an article I wrote a long time ago, but I think it’s still relevant today. I actually took an opportunity to move to Italy in hopes of escaping the busyness of the U.S. culture. Today, my kids are grown and while college life keeps my son exceptionally busy, both of my children recognize the importance of do-nothing time.
The Hurry Up Generation
Do your sweet sounds of home sound something like this? “Hurry up and get dressed for practice.” “Hurry up and eat so we can go.” “Hurry up and get in the car.” “You’ll need to hurry up and get your homework done.” I’ve deemed today’s kids, the “hurry up generation”.
What’s the rush? Why are we in a perpetually hurried state? Who’s to blame? Sorry to inform you Mom, but you are. It’s simply a matter of overscheduling our kids. There’s soccer. And piano lessons. And gymnastics. And karate. And choir practice. And the list goes on…and on. Over-organized and overscheduled sports and activities are creating disorganization in families’ lives.
According to a national survey, children are heavily scheduled from birth to age 12 and have less free time than ever in recent history. Youngsters now spend about four hours less a week in free play than children did in 1981, but they devote over 4 ½ hours to organized sports each week. And the impact from when I grew up is even more dramatic according to a University of Michigan study that found children have lost 12 hours per week of free time since the late 1970s.
One recent afternoon, I was frantically shuttling my kids between activities. One was doing homework in the backseat while the other changed into a gymnastics leotard. As I pulled into the fast-food drive-thru for a “quick” dinner, my daughter said, “can’t I skip gym today and just go home and relax?” And who can blame them? By the time they get home, shower, do homework and eat dinner, it’s already bedtime.
So I’m rebelling…. rebelling against the hurried lifestyle we’re imposing upon our children. My kids don’t stay after school. We don’t get up early on Saturday morning for soccer tournaments. I don’t spend my afternoons in the car shuttling from one activity to the next. Instead, we relish lazy weekends in our pajamas. We close the blinds and watch movies in the afternoon. Often, we do nothing. We DO eat dinner together around the table every night.
Have child psychologists convinced us that down time is bad time? Are structured activities our response to feeling that our neighborhoods are not safe for kids to play? Are we overreacting to the health industry telling us we’re too sedentary?
Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that sports and extracurricular activities are important and serve an important role in adolescence. But within reason. I worry most about the long-term affects of this rushed generation. When today’s kids are corporate executives, will they ever take time to vacation and relax? How will they treat their employees – will they rush them to complete assignments? As future parents, will they inflict this hurried mindset on their children so it becomes a never-ending cycle? “The quality of family life and pace you set for your children are a core part of their well-being,” according to Stacy DeBroff, national parenting expert and founder of www.momcentral.com. “Symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, combativeness and inability to concentrate or sleep often emanate from overscheduling and relentlessly intense weekly schedules,” she adds. Experts say teens need at least nine hours of sleep but often get only seven – or less – usually because of an overscheduled lifestyle.
How do we slow down the Hurry Up Generation? Allow your child to do one sport and one other extracurricular activity such as music. Encourage him/her to play outside with neighbors and friends (whatever happened to pick-up games in the cul-de-sac?). Relish the thought of spending less time in the car. Spend an entire Saturday in your pajamas. Eat dinner together every night as a family. Hurry up…and slow down to the speed of life.