After a chapter of A Child's History of the World and a an Arnold Lobel book, Sparkle decided we were done with reading out loud for the moment. I sent her outside to sweep the porch. After a few dead ladybugs were swept into oblivion, she headed out into the yard. I parked the cars so they made a little protected area for her to play in. Then, she asked for breakfast. In between sorting the winter coats and tidying up (again! Didn't I do that last night before bed?) the downstairs, I ferried raisins, peanut butter, apples and biscuits out to Sparkle Kitty. She sat out there for the longest time, watching the squirrels, talking to our cars, James (on the right) and Saabie (on the left). Doing nothing, really.
In the madness of getting myself through each day mentally intact with a talkative, creative, irrepressible gradeschooler, I often can't see what a blessing these days are. I often feel guilty we don't do more. When family and friends speak of all the activities their children are involved in -- soccer, swimming, theater, art classes, Awana, Scouts, music lessons, and dance to name but a few -- I often feel terribly guilty that I can't also give all these opportunities to Sparkle Kitty.
But every so often I'm called up short, like I was this morning by my friend Jane's post, and I come face to face with the fact that I'm giving Sparkle Kitty a wonderful gift, a gift that I grew up with and took for granted.
I was not homeschooled; I grew up overseas on the mission field. The scores of after-school activities so common in the United States were unheard of there. "Soccer mom" type ex-pat moms in West Africa were more likely to shoo the kids outside to play so they could have a cup of coffee in peace with a friend than to be toting children from activity to activity. I, my sister, and my brothers had what seemed like hours of free time every day, even on school days, and we certainly had that time all summer long as well. I've come to appreciate it all as a precious gift.
I can't give Sparkle Kitty my African childhood, but I can give her time. Open ended, glorious, unstructured time. Time to imagine, time to play, time to think deep thoughts and shallow ones. Time to explore and time to process what she's explored. Time to watch the clouds, build forts, create worlds with stuffed animals and rubber mice, and read books without interruption.
I'm giving her time enough to be a child, and time enough to grow up.