Thursday, 17 March 2016

Thursday, or Thereabouts - March 17, 2016

As sands through the hourglass, so are the days of the March Break...

School teachers and students along with their families are scrambling to squeeze out every last moment of fun in these last few days of this annual school break. The pressure is on to do more, to have more, to be more - relaxed? rested? renewed?

This old curmudgeon wonders if the hype about making this week all about family and fun, is a bit overplayed, overworked, overdone. I'm all in favour of fun family times, but I'm also a big believer in downtime: no pressure, no program, no duties.

Back in the day when I was in grade school - I did warn you that I'm a curmudgeon right? - the Spring holiday was tied to Easter. This of course meant that it was a movable feast, occurring anywhere between the last week of March and the last week of April; anywhere between icy snow pack and blooming daffodils. The hype, if you could even call it that, went to the tune of "Hear Comes Peter Cottontail" (Gene Autry) alternating with "Easter Parade" (Judy Garland and Fred Astaire). I hopped my way along the pastel bunny trail in the short week preceding the holy days, hearing stories about chicks hatching, solving arithmetic problems about jelly beans and making crafts that all began with cotton balls.

The first four days of the school break were all about family preparations for Easter. There was silverware to be polished, rooms to be cleaned, and food to be cooked. Though not fun in the sense of play, these chores were good family times, full of laughter and stories. After the Easter egg hunt we all headed off to church Easter Sunday morning to sing the great hymns and inhale, choke, sneeze, and/or nearly faint from the fragrance of umpteen dozen Easter Lilies.

Easter Break 1958

Then it was home for the grand feast celebrated with all the family gathered around the dining room table. Monday all we could do was sit around recovering from all the food and festivities. Tuesday Dad went back to work leaving Mom to cope with three kids, chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and hard boiled eggs for four days. We each found our own space and activity. Cardboard boxes became trains, planes, boats and automobiles. There were blanket forts in the living room, colouring books and maybe even a new pack of crayons. If we were really lucky, the Bookmobile came to the bottom of our street and we tagged along with Mom to find more great stories.  And it was grand!

Easter Break 1966

In 1968 the March Break replaced the Easter week holiday in Ontario. At first it came in the last week of March but later moved to the mid point where it now is. My Dad did not take the time off, very few parents could or did. By this time I was in high school and as best as I can recall it was a week of total downtime. I slept in a lot. I watched the afternoon soap operas (The Doctors, Days of our Lives, Another World), and not much else. It was a good break from school. Was it fun? Well not wildly, but I did enjoy the open space. Family time? What's that?

When I had two children of my own in grade school, sleeping in remained a primary feature of the break. Once again there were blanket forts in the living room, colouring books and new crayons. I made special lunches - grilled cheese, hotdogs, toad-in-a-hole, mac & cheese (not Kraft Dinner®) and more. We went outside every day in all kinds of weather and one or two afternoons were spent in front of the TV watching movies from the local video store, over and over again. The big treat was a trip to the movie theatre to see the latest family offering from Disney or Hollywood. It was a good week and it didn't break the bank.

The 21st century March Break looks very different. All the advertising suggests that though it is about family time, it is to be enjoyed anywhere but at home. There are opportunities near and far to fill every waking hour with every kind of activity, much of which seems to assume that both parents have the time off and that money is no object. The pressure is on, the crowds huge.
Hurry up and relax!

I need my downtime in copious quantities. I always have. I am a true introvert married to a true introvert, with two introvert children. It's not good, it's not bad, it's who I am. Not everyone needs all the quiet that I do, but all of us at every age need some time to ourselves, away from the gadgets that ring and beep and flash and crash; away from bosses, parents, siblings and friends; away from oughts and shoulds; at home with who we are.

Before this March Break is over, let yourself (and your kids) play in the daydream world of simple things - cardboard boxes, blanket forts and colouring books, grilled cheese sandwiches, and walks in the world outside the front door.

No batteries required!

Oh, and Schwartz says:
Happy St. Paddy's Day!

©2016 April Hoeller

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