Last week I wrote Patience, Grasshopper with 6 tips for settling into the new school year. As I revised it, it occurred to me that I left off some pretty basic ways families can slow down and live in the present moment, as they settle into new routines. And then I remembered the valuable lessons Ernestine Buckmeister teaches us.
In fact, these are so basic, these lesson stare us in the face yet often defy recognition.
- Play. Be silly. Pretend.
- Be outside. Observe. Enjoy.
- Once in a while, scrap the busy calendar.
Just ask Ernestine, and she’ll show you. She’s the uber-scheduled heroine who pals around with Nanny O’Dear each week. Ernestine’s calendar includes yodeling, yoga, karate, and knitting, just to name a few. Like many children, Ernestine’s busy schedule is set up by her well-meaning and loving parents, who themselves are so busy at work, that have outsourced the supervision of Ernestine’s schedule to the trusted and venerable Nanny.
Any of this sounding hauntingly familiar?
Sure, we’re all busy. Especially if we are raising kids and working to ensure there’s a roof over head, food on the table, and generally provide for the myriad of needs and wants that come with raising a family. It’s easy to think the hectic pace is just “us.” Recently, I asked a friend how she was, her was her response was, “ah, well (l-o-n-g sigh)… You know, I am in that marathon that starts September 1 and ends in June.” Yikes.
But most of us can empathize. It might feel like you are isolated or perhaps that you are an 0utlier, but you are not alone. But as a teacher who sees dozens families do the same juggle each year, believe me, you are not alone. Most of us are doing “it” – the marathon, the juggle, the merry-go-round, the circus, whatever name you give “it.” Some of us have the courage stop the madness and slow down. Even little Ernestine summoned the courage to stop for an afternoon. Be brave. Be bold. Stop your own personal circus just for an afternoon. If you haven’t tried it, plan on trying it. Go ahead, put it in your calendar and see what happens!
Engage your family in a discussion about what the new schedule feels like. Do you have kids that like to have something most days? Or would they enjoy an afternoon home with you to putter around? Honor those plans to take a day off. Research shows our kids need that down time from unstructured play, so no need to beat yourself up for skipping those yodeling lessons. Time in the back yard or painting at the kitchen table along side of you will give your child time to decompress, consolidate learning from a full day at school, connect to you and broaden expressive language or problem solving skills. If you don’t feel like you can make a preemptive strike, then tread carefully. Watch for signs of over load. And when the schedule feels too full, patience is waning, or a cold is coming on – take a tip from Ernestine. Schedule a day off and see what joys you can find!
Need some convincing? Let Ernestine show you or herself. Check out her story with a peek at the pages.
Once inside, I think you’ll concur. Linda Lodding skillfully captures modern-day childhood at it’s best and not-so-best. Well-intention parents, like the Buckmeisters, often forget that time with loved ones, time alone and certainly, time and space to explore and play are critical to childhood. Lodding’s tongue-twisting names, hilarious text, and lessons on the importance of play are complimented by Suzanne Beaky’s whimsical illustrations. It’s a combination that immediate attracts and then sustains the readers’ attention to create a lasting story that let’s us all find personal connections. Ernestine is sure to earn her place among such classic literary heroines as Clementine, Eloise, Madeline, Ramona and Junie B. Jones!