Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Idle Parent

It's that time again when tennis, football and dancing timetables dominate and dictate the domestic routine. (I know, I know. It's great they're taking part and all that.)

But whither the taxi driver, who several times weekly finds herself in a frazzled state battling through traffic, against the clock, to ensure safe delivery of the participants?

Parenting books, to which I've been partial over the years, have only ever extolled the wonder of activities/hobbies.

My aversion to the tyranny extra-curricular activities exert over me has never been lessened by any handy tips. Parenting books they may well be, but they've never shown me (the parent) ANY understanding or empathy of the cold sweat I break into when it comes to standing on a match sideline. (Sorry kids, if you're reading this)

That is, until this book came along.

Okay, I had to, by times, stop myself from hurdling the book against the wall, so irritated did editor of Idler magazine and father of three, Tom Hodgkinson, make me. With the back up of tons of money and a huge farm, Hodgkinson is well equipped to sit around playing the mandolin while his kids frolic outside in the rolling hills of Devon.

Yet,as with all worthy but imperfect advice, you can pick the bits you like. The Idle Parent is the ONLY parenting guide I've virtuously devoured from start to finish, without dipping in and out, as I've done with others. Also, I frequently take it off the shelf for a re-glance at Hodgkinson's trove of hilarious and common sense insights into child rearing.

With a list of chapters that include titles such as: "Bring back Child Labour" and "Ban Telly, Embrace Freedom" my favourite has to be: "End all Activities, Be Wild."

In this chapter, Hodgkinson declares:
"Activities are the scourge of modern childhood....from the enclosure of the school we enclose them in the more adult organized activities...all in the service of making them into competitive entities....Saturday mornings are for lying around doing's a tip: don't let them get anywhere near the football will find that your weekends are completely ruined by having to drive them to matches all over the place...try not to fill children's days. Let them live...too much activity will tend to make them dependent on outside authorities for the structure of their daily lives."

Okay, so I'm not going to "End all activities."

And, I bet Hodgkinson's kids will be playing football or tennis, despite what he writes.

But that chapter sure cheered me up no end.


Debbie said...

I'm sure down time enhances the ups. I remember a wise mum telling me that boredom stimulates creativity. I'm sure 150 acres, a few horses and forests helps. I agree there needs to be a balance - though I think sidelines would finish me off too (funny how you can escape them with girls). Great petrol-saving post, Mari.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

The extracurricular stuff has gotten really out of control! Why do parents feel like they have to get their kids into all this stuff to be good parents? I am in favor of idle parenting, I would have loved this book!

Mari G said...

Debbie - really agree that boredom stimulates creativity. After the rows settle down, it's amazing what the necessity of having to entertain yourself will produce. Nice to hear from you!
Karen - Idle parenting is what I aspire to but just can't get there! Thanks for stopping by