Our New “Thing” to Do: Free Time

"What are we doing, mom?"

"What are we doing next, mom?"

"What are we doing tomorrow, mom?"

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone.

My son is 6 and pretty busy. He has school everyday, swim class, karate, and indoor soccer. On top of that he goes to aftercare some days and the library for reading activities. There's planned play-dates with friends and day trips with me on the weekends. I often find myself searching popular area blogs like Barista Kids in search of fun free things to do with my son so he's not bored and stir-crazy. There's an urgency to always be doing something. I'm not sure how we fell into this routine. It's like I'm chasing the clock waiting for it to tick tock to bedtime so I can let my guard down.

When I was a kid, I had dance class and cheerleading practice, but I was often told to ride my bike or play in the yard. Watching TV wasn't so frowned upon and taking the family dog for a walk was kind of something to do—an "activity" for the morning. My parents didn't plan day trips all the time and my mom wasn't involved in a mommy group that met regularly.

There were no blogs telling my mom about all the DIY crafts you can make out of toilet paper rolls, but that's not to say I didn't craft. I did. I did a lot of things growing up, but they were mostly in an organic way. We had friends over—we didn't have scheduled play-dates with fruit kabobs and homemade juice pops. There was stuff to do in an unplanned way. Is it me or are we all a little obsessed with keeping our kids busy, involved and engaged? Admittedly, I am.

But this past weekend got a little hairy, because there were no activities planned. I didn't think I needed anything super-special to do because my son had a birthday party at his friend's house. He's still of the age where all the moms stay, but I didn't mind—it was actually nice to sit and relax on the couch while my son played all the pin the tail-ish party games. Of course, when the party was over, he wanted to know what we were doing next. I expected we'd just go home and chill, but he wanted to ride his bike and not just at home, but on the "cool"  bike path at the park … And I took him.

After an hour, I called it quits and he expected we were on to our next adventure, but the bus stopped there. It wasn't even 5 p.m. and plans for the day were over. I reached my limit. I could have taken him to the local arcade, for an ice cream or any other XYZ place or idea, but I drove us home. And when we got home I explained that mommy was going into her room alone to rest and that he could play quietly in his room, take a nap (yeah right), play on the iPad, or watch a movie. "It's your free time!" I said.

His eyes lit up. "Like when we have free time at school to do any center we want?"

"Yes," I said enthusiastically. "Just like that!" I think I tricked him into doing "something."

I armed him with a juice box and some air-popped pop corn. I went in my room, door open, fell onto my bed, and watched two episodes, a single uninterrupted hour of Weeds on Netflix (it's my new addiction). It was glorious. When I emerged from my room, Jack was nestled on the couch under a blanket watching something on TV. The very next day, after church and breakfast out, he asked for free time. It's the new thing to do. And it's not frowned upon.