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Summer Preview: Kids and the Fine Art of Having Fun

Yesterday my son went to a friend’s house for a playdate while I went to work and attended a department meeting. Spring has finally arrived in New England, and it was over 80 degrees. YEEHAW!

Soon after we arrived, the kids were already soaked by the sprinkler, running gleefully through the shooting water, cackling loudly and squealing as the cold water pummeled their legs. Ah, summer! Yes, I know, I’m getting ahead of myself. The trees are blooming but not leafed out yet. Flowers have magically appeared all over the place but there are still bare branches. It’s only April, for goodness sake. Not August.

But it was a lovely summery day yesterday, and the children knew exactly how to spend it. Spend. That’s an interesting idiom, isn’t it? We SPEND our days. And what does spend mean?

The Oxford English Dictionary provides these relevant definitions (among others):

  • To pay out or away; to disburse or expend; to dispose of, or deprive oneself of, in this way
  • To employ, occupy, use or pass (time, one’s life, etc.) in or on some action, occupation, or state.
  • To use up; to exhaust or consume by use; to wear out.
  • To suffer the loss of (blood, life, etc.); to allow to be shed or spilt.
  • To waste (time).
  • To allow (time, one’s life, etc.) to pass or go by; to live or stay through (a certain period) to the end.

Some might say running back and forth all day over the same ground, getting soaked by cold water, is a “waste of time.” But because they are children, somehow this is acceptable, even desirable. Why can’t adults do this without censure? Perhaps the world would be a better place if every once in a while we actually lived in the moment and just “allowed time to pass” without a constant attention to efficiency and work and lord knows what else.

I hear that in Scandinavia, they have learned the fine art of relaxation and that they think Americans are nuts because we are such workaholics. Perhaps they have a point. Perhaps our children know the best way. Or at least they know how to seize the day and “use up” every last minute in fun and exploration and healthy exercise and companionship. Perhaps they spend their day in the best way possible.

5 Responses

  1. Wonderful post, WGB. As each summer approaches, I remember the seemingly endless idyllic summers from my childhood and wonder why it’s so hard to get that feeling back. I read an excerpt from Carl Honore’s book a couple years back about the “slow movement.” I think he might be onto something.

  2. Hmmm. Sounds like a must read for me!

  3. Great post and of course the world would be a better place if we were to spend our day like our children.

    That’s why you have children, though. So you can play with their toys without getting in trouble 🙂

  4. When I first moved to Northern California, they were having a record breaking heat wave. I was a nurse’s aid at the time and the convalescent hospital I worked in didn’t have air conditioning. I came home and my husband at the time had the sprinkler on in the front yard. I walked over and stood right in the middle of it, full nurse’s uniform and all! The neighbors thought I was nuts, but I can remember still how delicious it felt.

  5. Yes, I know how hot N Calif can get. I grew up in Sacto. Your comment made me smile — I can imagine you there in your uniform! Delightful! 🙂

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