Before the summer slips away, make sure you devote some time to…nothing.
“Dolce far niente” is in Italian for “the sweetness of doing absolutely nothing” literal translation, according to good old Google: pleasant idleness. My translation? A perfect summer day. Leave it to the Italians and the art of doing nada.
Have you noticed how scheduling purposeful nothingness is way harder than you’d think? Back in June you looked ahead to your calendar, and saw two full months of summer: July and August. Your mind went into a wild daydream of sunny days and endless possibilities. Also, days spent well, doing absolutely nothing. No closets to organize, no cleaning, no homework, no briefcases to pick up. No pencils to sharpen. What are we supposed to do, with all this time?
Somehow, I am writing this well into August, and all I have done so far is carpool children to and from activities, packed and unpacked for various camp and day camp occasions, traveled miles upon miles visiting said children once the packing was finally over, served dinner and worked. And b”H for that.
But, summer isn’t over. Not quite. I haven’t had my day of purposeful nothingness.
I am planning that day (or two) with two requirements: low expectations and spending quality time together. Because, when I think back to my own childhood, those are the days I remember best, the ones that spell summer. It’s days with family time, without a clock ticking, telling you where to be and at when. It’s a day that begins whenever we decide it should, the slow rhythm of having absolutely nothing on the agenda and you will soon see, the day will evolve. Family time is the goal. Doing nothing, but together. Being spontaneous is a welcome plus.
On that day, being completely present and involved from morning to night is the only requirement. Oh yes, forgot to mention. Throw your phone away. It is only to be used as a GPS to get you to a peach picking farm, if the mood strikes.
It always surprises me how children are happiest with little. And, how the more you give, the more the kvetching level goes up. By ‘give,’ I am obviously referring to materialistic things.
I once called my sister asking her: “Why are my kids so difficult today? Nobody seems to get along!” She is the type to always have answers. So calling her was naturally the thing to do. She replied:
“You must have given them too much stuff today, and too little of yourself.”
Boy was she right. We were on the way home from Six Flags, the amusement park, after a day spent on rides and giving in to every last arcade and gift store item. I was determined to give my kids a “good day.” Yet my head was elsewhere, preoccupied with deadlines and other mommy stuff. Lesson learned.
But back to scheduling summer nothingness: yes, you need to schedule it. Otherwise it just won’t happen. Also, stop with the guilt. You are entitled to time off too. The laundry/housework/kitchen/photos-to-sort-out will wait. Don’t listen to your neighbor who already baked all her round Rosh Hashanah challos.
This is how you do it: before the summer ends, you reserve an entire day with absolutely nothing on the agenda. It sounds easy, but it isn’t. You will see. Thoughts of “I should really go get school shoes today” will creep up in your mind. But be strong and don’t let them in. There is still a bit of summer left, and you can still grab it.
Lounge with your coffee for however long you please, play Banana Split in your PJ’s, and see where the day takes you…
Remember: Come November you will look back to this day longingly and reminisce with your children. The day that you did nothing yet it felt so good.