As I mentioned in an earlier post when I was a child I wanted to grow up to be Madonna. My mum had a friend, who at the time was the closest I had come to a professional performer. Her friend you see had done one term at a famous theatre school (before dropping out). She had also performed as one of Snow Whites dwarfs in a local amateur theatre companies Christmas show.
Obviously, this meant she was the lady to ask when it came to what skills I needed to perform professionally. She informed me that I’d need to take dance lessons. Also acting and singing classes. So I enrolled at a local dance school to take ballet, tap and modern dance lessons, which I loved. I also joined a local youth theatre to hone my acting skills (I later discovered I had all the acting talent of a packet of jelly babies, but that’s another story…).
At the same time as all this, I had already spent a number of years learning to play the violin. I had taken it up at the advice of the school. It also happened that my Auntie and Uncle were music teachers so they gave me extra classes. Of course this also meant attending a local orchestra or two.
As a coincidence the same aunt that taught me violin, was a member of a local swimming club. So naturally, it seemed like a good idea for me to join and swim with this club once a week. I loved swimming, and I was pretty good at it. Also, I made a new friend who introduced me to Nirvana and smoking, while waiting for our parents to pick us up.
Now as you can imagine these activities where not enough for a girl like me. I wanted to join the guides. My mum didn’t think this was a good idea. Probably because I had been chucked out of brownies for being non conformist (they wanted us to sit in a circle I merely enquired why it couldn’t be a different shape). So as circumstance would have it, when we were shopping one day the St John’s Ambulance where at the supermarket. Noticing some of them were my age we realised that I could be a St John’s Ambulance cadet. I had a great time wrapping myself and my friends up in meters and meters of bandage. Really a skill for life!
So there’s me dancing, acting, playing violin, swimming and bandaging. You can imagine with school on top there wasn’t a lot of free time. I ate meals in the car travelling from one activity to the next. My mum became a taxi driver, and looking back it must have cost her a fortune.
Don’t get me wrong I loved all my activities. I never once asked to stop any. I’m sure if I had I could have done. But I look back and I wonder if all this is why I’m not very good at entertaining myself. Why I find it pretty tricky to be on my own without feeling lonely.
I have three children. As my eldest starts school and starts requesting lessons in this and that I have a decision to make. I really think that children need free time. Time to be bored, because boredom spurs creativity. I want them playing in the garden, bug hunting, bouncing on their trampoline and digging in their sand pit. I want them to be using their imagination through play. Most of all I want them to learn to be self sufficient, to enjoy their own company.
I also want us to have time to have family adventures. I want to go on walks in the country and collect acorns. I’d like to have picnics in the park (obviously featuring plenty of cake). We can play board games on rainy Sundays, and start family wars over monopoly.
So, what do you think children should be doing in their free time ? Am I wrong and denying my children opportunities ? I’d love to hear how other parents approach this, please me let me know your thoughts on this.