This AP story appeared today in our local paper. The headline used was "Intimacy lost in families’ non-stop busyness."
Please go read it. It’s a story about families that are so on-the-go that they don’t eat dinner until after 10 p.m.; where homework is usually done in the back of the van on the way to hockey practice; and where it’s very unlikely that more than a couple of family members are even in the same room at the same time.
This is something Mama Squirrel feels very strongly about. Some of the squirrel family’s favourite evenings after supper are when everyone’s squished onto the queen-size bed, reading or cuddling or just fooling around together. (Although at those times she wishes it were a king-size bed.) There was something to be said for those old farmhouses with one warm room, though they had their drawbacks too.
Recently we’ve had some firsthand experience of the "on the run" lifestyle. The young squirrels have joined a choir that practices on Wednesday afternoons, and then they and Mama Squirrel take a twenty-minute walk (timed without any snow and no stops at the bookstore) to meet Mr. Fixit at his office for a ride home. By now it’s 5:00, so dinner is either something from the crockpot or (occasionally) pizza ordered before we leave the office. Wednesday night is also either the big squirrels’ night to go to a church group (while The Apprentice babysits), or The Apprentice’s turn to be driven to church for her youth group (20 minutes each way and she has to be there right after supper).
After a couple of weeks of this, Mama Squirrel began to have a great deal of sympathy for people who do this almost every night. Once a week is enough, thank you.
But the part about this newspaper story that really caught her attention is that the parents say "this is good for them [the children]." Now Mama Squirrel is not naive about the way newspaper reporters sometimes twist what people say (it has happened to her). But she wonders how this family came to that conclusion. Do these kids really want to be cramming their homework in the back seat? Do they like having no real dinner until after 10 p.m.? Do the kids ever get a chance to play in their backyard, or play a non-moving board game, or do some of the not-so-structured cultural activities that the Headmistress recently posted about? When do they play with their friends? Do they ever get to blow bubbles on the back porch? Although the parents described here say that their children are having a better childhood than they themselves had, one would have to wonder.
Mama Squirrel recommends the books What is a Family, by Edith Schaeffer, and For the Family’s Sake, by Susan Schaeffer MacAulay, for anyone who, like her, worries about what our togetherness is becoming.