It's important to have days where there is "nothing to do" so that my children can clear their minds and let their own creative juices flow. Over the last year or two we have gradually weaned our children off of television and movies. We haven't had television service in our home for the last couple of years and I think it is one of the top reasons our family bonds have grown so much stronger. Of course my older children still LOVE to watch a movie, and they do a couple of times a week, but they know now that it's a special treat, and not just a "babysitter" when mom needs to get something done.
There was a time in my life where I did have my children in several activities each week, and the TV was on for several hours of the day (whether they were intently watching it or not) but I began to notice that if my children watched TV first thing in the morning... whether cartoons or a movie or something educational, they were sure to fall apart and have temper tantrums that day... and though that will still happen from time to time, the tantrums were much more frequent on the days they watched TV. So, gradually, I began to wean them from television and movies. Later, I began to wean them from many of the extracurricular activities they were involved in. I had to wean myself too, because as all moms know, social events and activities for children add to the social life of the mother as well... :)
This has allowed for a lot more "play" time. By play time, I don't mean structured activities, on the contrary, this is the undirected time where my children can invent and daydream. They discover what their own interests and talents are... not the popular trends, and they discover an inner peace and joy as they begin to develop their own unique talents. They develop confidence as they discover they can choose to be happy and they can choose to do things that will make them happy, rather than waiting for someone else to come along and entertain them and make them "happy."
At times I have wondered if I am doing the right thing for my children choosing not to indulge them in preschool, music, dance, gymnastics, and other sporting events year-round -- because I do believe those are wonderful, enriching, rewarding activities. But then I remember that motherhood... just being with my children and mothering them, is the highest and noblest of all things a person can ever do. And I find even more comfort and reassurance as I listen to the words of the prophet and general authorities of Christ's church...
"Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy...Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list...Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives...It is said that any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice...If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most." - President Deiter F. Uchtdorf
"As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all...Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best. When the Lord told us to seek learning, He said, “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom” (D&C 88:118; emphasis added)...Family experts have warned against what they call “the overscheduling of children.” In the last generation children are far busier and families spend far less time together. Among many measures of this disturbing trend are the reports that structured sports time has doubled, but children’s free time has declined by 12 hours per week, and unstructured outdoor activities have fallen by 50 percent...The First Presidency has called on parents “to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles. … The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place … in … this God-given responsibility.” The First Presidency has declared that “however worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform.” -Elder Dallin H. Oaks
"Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all." -Julie B. Beck
Today I was reading about what really makes children happy or not, and I was interested in what Edward Hallowell had to say. He's a psychiatrist and author of The Childhood roots of adult happiness. He explains that children need to develop inner tools they can rely on throughout life and that over-indulged children -- whether showered with toys or shielded from emotional discomfort -- are more likely to grow into teenagers who are bored, cynical, and joyless. "The best predictors of happiness are internal, not external."
Though it's very difficult to not follow the trends of today's society and to not be a part of all of the social events happening around me, I am happy that I have chosen to allow my children the time to be home...to play and imagine with their toys...to create and dream and find joy in who they are and what they love about life. I know they are building a sure foundation that will not fail them as friends or popularity comes and goes throughout their lives. I see joy, contentment, confidence and peace in their lives, and I know their happiness comes from within and is lasting rather than fleeting with each activity. And though we are not free from tantrums, tears and trials... we are growing stronger each day individually and thus, as a family as we have chosen to spend more time learning, growing and playing together rather than apart.