A Lovely Day of Nothing

My 12 year came down the stairs this morning at around 10 am, hunted around for cereal and then joined me in the living room where I was sprawled on the couch. “What are we doing today, Mama?” he asked. “Nothing, ” I said. “Absolutely nothing”. He smiled, said “good”, checked that that didn’t mean cleaning the house and then went out to see a friend.
My 14 year old, a great believer in “chilling” showed up about an hour later. After discussing the pros and cons of his putting more clothes on – this has been a damp squib of a winter so far but it is still not exactly balmy – and we do not keep our house warm (people often put their coats ON when visiting us!) he said “doing anything today?” I said no. He sat back and we spent a pleasant 1/2 an hour chatting about the dance he went to last night at high school – it was a themed 70’s disco night and he delighted in the costumes that some kids wore.
Anyway, after a while he stretched, announced he had homework to do, watched the cat for about 10 minutes and then strolled upstairs. I continued to lie on the couch and watch the rain.
The fourth member of our family is away this weekend at a Conference – he is also a great believer in not rushing about, of making sure that there are frequent bouts of doing nothing in our days. Being British, that often involves cups of tea – which are not to be rushed or trivialized by being scheduled in amongst other activities. Often I might call him to do something only to get the response “I’m still drinking my tea” which translates to “I am not budging for at least 15 more minutes”.
As a somewhat driven type-A sort of person, I do not always remember to chill, to hang out, to do nothing. Sometimes I have to take myself by the scruff of the neck and consciously “do nothing”. Today it just happened. I stayed on that couch for a few hours, watching the rain and relaxing (after having decided to NOT  worry about if Global Warming is the reason for rain in January in Wisconsin!). I petted the cat. I admired the way our dining room is decorated. And, most importantly, I just sat quietly. Doing nothing.
Yes – I am on the computer at the moment – and yes, I did do a few things: some dishes, some vacuuming, some hassling of the 12 year old to do his chores, some thinking about the next book I’m writing. But because I surrounded this in “doing nothing”, because I feel relaxed and unhurried, these things did not feel like oppressive “have-to’s” but rather pleasant interludes in the midst of “doing nothing”.
So many people seem to rush through life, dragging their children with them, multi tasking and galloping from one thing to the next, from one commitment to the other. So few people seem to have time for a cup of tea with a neighbor or time to just sit in the sun and smell the flowers. I am so glad that I decided many years ago to consciously “do nothing” at times – I’m sure my health would have suffered – as well as my relationships had I not made this decision. And I so value that my sons just love to relax and take it easy from time to time, are not maniacally rushing about – can appreciate a comfortable home life. Perhaps it was because we read Munro Leaf’s Ferdinand the Bull so many times when they were young – interesting that when my 12 year old was arranging his book shelves the other day, putting away books that were too young for him, that Ferdinand remained. “Ah, Ferdinand” I said, picking up the book. “Yes” said Gabriel “I always loved Ferdinand – and I still do”.
And so do I.

Posted on January 28, 2006 in Family Life and Parenting

  • robin manresa says:

    i smiled while reading this. my three year old son loves the book ferdinand the bull, so much so we are saving corks to make a cork tree for ferdinand.
    thank you for all your conversations with us on the web. you are a special lady!!
    (malea balmuth’s neighbor in fort worth)

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