Taking Recess

I just read in the New York Times that recess is crucial for kids, according to dozens of recent scientific studies, because kids need time to play aimlessly in order to balance out the focused concentration that the rest of school requires. This article added that walks in the woods are better than medicine at curing hyperactivity. This all makes good sense to me.

So I’m trying to find my own recess periods and my own walks in the woods.

There’s a part of motherhood that leaves me always rushing, anxious to make sure that Sophie is fed and warm, comfortable and comforted, engaged and loved.

Sophie is good at taking her own recess periods. When she wants to be alone, she announces, “Bye mommy,” and walks away — then runs back to me 90 seconds later to share whatever fascinating thing she has just discovered.

When we make the mistake of over-scheduling her, like last week when Ben invited friends over after Sophie had been in daycare all day, she just went into her room to get the alone-time she wanted. Sometimes she even climbs into her bike-trailer because it’s a comfortable pod, I guess, and it often means a ride to the park anyway.

Ben is good at taking his own recesses too. He doesn’t even say, “Bye,” he just tends to disappear into the garage to work on bikes, or something.

But I need to work on taking my own recesses. Cramming full-time work and nearly-full-time motherhood together means that I sometimes don’t get a lunch break, let alone a recess. Plus I have this annoying guilt that Ben and Sophie seem free of. Adding to the time-crunch, in our house, household chores are out-of-balance. I do too many chores while the rest of the family does too few. Recently I’ve been tempted to imitate the housewive’s strikes of the 1970s — except that I myself want fresh food on clean dishes, so I’m not going to go on strike. I’m just going to try to take more recesses.

But it’s all easier said than done. Case in point: on Sunday, a friend had a party in the afternoon. Perfect for us, I thought, we could go as a family without running into Sophie’s bedtime. Ben enjoyed the party, but I spent the whole time following Sophie around, trying to keep her safe. She probably could have negotiated with the bratty 8-year-old without me intervening, and, yes, another adult probably would have grabbed her after she ran out the front door towards the busy street, but it didn’t feel like a risk I was willing to take. So I trailed Sophie, kept her away from the street, got her a juice-box and endless plates of hummus, changed her diapers, translated her speech for other adults, wore her in the sling, spotted her while she jumped on the bed, kept her from spilling rice or applesauce everywhere, and never got to have an adult conversation, or even get myself a full drink of water.

I need more recess.

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