My kids recently had four days off from school for Easter break. On the morning of their final vacation day — which was beautiful, warm and sunny — I asked them to help me come up with a fun game plan for the day.
I suggested we go out to lunch. They said no; they preferred the food at home.
I suggested we go to the park. They replied no; they’d done that the day before.
I suggested we take a ride on the train. This was met with dead-eyed silence.
“Fine,” I said. “What is it you guys would like to do?”
And, in a rare moment of perfect sibling agreement, Declan and Mara announced they wanted to just “stay home.”
That’s right. They wanted to simply kick it around the house because, Declan said, they hadn’t had a stay-at-home day in “forever.” He said this without so much as a hint of hyperbole, which meant I needed to take it upon myself to set the record straight.
Last time I checked, “forever” indicated an inexhaustive stretch of time. If that is still the case — and a quick check of the dictionary informs me it is — it has not actually been “forever” since we had a stay-at-home day. It had been about three days.
I can’t help thinking this is my fault.
Maybe the peanut butter Hawaiian roll sandwiches and frozen cheese pizzas I whip up each day when the kids ask for their usual for lunch are just too delicious. Or maybe the sharp tone I take when they ask — for the millionth time — if they can play on their devices (and I tell them no for the millionth time) is really music to their ears.
When all a 9-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl want to do is stay home and play with Legos, shoot hoops in the backyard and read the new books they got from the Easter Bunny, I feel suspicious. But maybe, just like their adult counterparts, kids just want to take it easy every once in a while, too.
Kids lives are jam-packed with activities. If I spent 35 hours a week at school — with an additional five to 10 hours tacked on for all the sports, music and club-affiliated extras — I wouldn’t want to leave the house either. But I figure that’s because I’m old and have already spent what would amount to years out of my house living life.
Sometimes, parenting feels like a balance between doing what we think we should and what we feel like doing.
So here it is, their last day of break, and all my mom “should-be-doings” are telling me to do something. Then I find what I think is the balance — the thing to quiet the “should-be-doings” but also still honor their calls for taking it easy.
We head off to a park we don’t usually visit. Two hours later, as I’m issuing my five-minute departure warning — for the sixth time in the last half-hour, mind you — something occurred to me. Sometimes, doing nothing can mean just getting out and doing something small.
Oh, and I also realized I need to hit the gym, because no one my age should be that winded after two rounds of tag.
Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM’s “Big Party Show” in Omaha is a mom to two children living in Chicago. She writes weekly for Momaha.com.