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Taking time to grow what matters

by Mary Mazzoni on August 14, 2012

Let’s consider this school year as a kind of growing season.

Do you garden?

Our family dabbles in growing flowers and vegetables.

Some years we go all-out, planting large patches of vegetables and adding new perennials. We spend lots of time preparing the soil in Spring, and we weed and water all Summer. (Full disclosure? My husband does most of the work).

Other years, we choose to buy most of our vegetables at the local farm stand. We tend the perennials we’ve already planted – but we don’t add many new ones – because we have other priorities for our time.

There is no shortage of gardening advice. But it’s up to us to discern what we want to plant and what we have time to tend well in a given season.

The same is true for you and your child as the school term begins.

What we choose to plant

For us, “prime real estate” for flowers is the border patch next to our porch.

We chose to plant something unusual there. We’ve gotten quizzical, even disapproving, feedback about our choice. Instead of using the space for colorful annuals or perennials, we planted – milkweed.

Milkweed!  This large, straggly plant eventually produces an interesting flower. But most of the summer it just keeps growing taller, with spiny pods swelling fatter as the days go by.

Some consider it an eye-sore. But we love our milkweed.

And so do the monarch butterflies!  Every day we enjoy the beauty of these amazing creatures, because of how we chose to use a bit of our prime real estate.

Who cares what others think?

How will you and your child use your time?

Gardeners often map out their growing space, choosing what they’ll plant in each section.

Consider time as growing space for you and your child.

Just as a garden has boundaries, so does your time – and your child’s.

You have 24 hours in each day, 7 days in each week, 4 weeks in each month. What fruit do you and your child want to grow in this space?

  • Health
  • Joy
  • Self determination and empowerment
  • Communication skills
  • Academic skills
  • Relationships
  • Independent Living skills

There is no shortage of advice – coming from all directions – about how you and your child should use your time. If you tried to act on all the advice you hear, there wouldn’t be time for basic self care, and you would find yourself – and your child – frazzled.

Step back for a moment.

This is your life – and your child’s life.

There are limits to time and energy. It is simply not possible to act on every good idea.

How will you choose to use your time – based on your priorities – and your child’s?

Choosing how to use “unscheduled” time

Once you’ve plotted in 8 hours a day for sleep, 6 hours for school, 1 hour for transportation, 2 hours for meals, 2 hours for self care routines, and 1 hour for homework and school organization – there’s about 4 hours of unscheduled awake time left for your child on school days.

And let’s remember – kids need some time to do what they want to do – for fun.

How does your child choose to use unscheduled time?

Making choices is very empowering for kids.

And choices can grow self determination and communication skills as well as overall joy and well-being.

When children are young, we typically offer them a choice between options that we present to them.

As they get older, we can give kids a chance to come up with their own ideas, and to learn how to plan and take action to make those ideas happen.

How can you build the opportunity for choice into your child’s days and weeks?

Fruitful routines

Sometimes, we don’t need to “add” to what we’re doing to grow skills. We can simply do things a bit differently.

For example, if you’d like your child to grow some independence, you can take a look at how you structure daily self care routines. If you find yourself providing many verbal prompts, you may want to consider working with your child to develop a checklist for one of her daily routines.

If you’d like your child to grow some independent living skills, you might consider adding a housekeeping chore to your child’s routine, perhaps in combination with an allowance.

One small choice at a time – you can plan to grow the skills you and your child find most important.

Beginning with the end in mind

I wanted butterflies, so I began the growing season by planting milkweed.

What do you and your child want to grow this school term?

Begin by planting simple activities in your child’s daily or weekly or monthly routine that will bear the fruit you both hope to grow.

Sure, lots of “experts” will have their ideas. And it can be helpful to listen to their input.

But – even though I enjoy listening to what others plant in their garden – I made the choice to plant milkweed.

No matter what their opinion might be.

How will you and your child choose to use your precious time?

Your turn

Do you sometimes feel pressured by others to use your time – or your child’s time – in certain ways?  What “fruit” would you like your child to grow this school term? Does thinking about this question change the way you think about using time each day and each week?

Please share your thoughts in the comments – we’d love to hear from you!

If you found this post helpful – please share it. Thanks!

Photo Credit – SidPix at Flickr

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Tag August 16, 2012 at 8:57 am

Here are some thoughts and my reaction. I have a Dysgraphia LD history, so reading was not problem; writing (especially math homework) and English homework took some time (though typing was a great help. ) . After my homework was done (what I could do ) I watched the news before dinner. In the grocery store, learning about the prices of items, and then mentally (or on a calculator ) adding them up can be help. Sports can definitely help an LD kid; I was on the Soccer Team ( 6th-9th grade ) and switched over to cross-country running — from 5KM races to 10KM races. Music can help an LD kid. Piano music (which has two clefs) was too much. The orchestra teacher at Roosevelt Junior High Schcool – John Josa of Berkely Heights, NJ – was a genius. He knew I had a neat sense of humor. He did not put me on Baritone Sax, Cello, Bass, Clarinet; but on a unique instrument, the bassoon! I got a kick out of that. And this leads to another memory — playing in the Community Band with my Dad ( he played Trombone ) ; another shared family experience. Have a great summer! Joe Tag . joseph.g.tag@gmail.com .

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Mary Mazzoni August 24, 2012 at 11:16 am

Thanks for sharing, Joe! I replied to your comment on LinkedIn- but just now noticed I didn’t reply to you here. (Whoops!)

It’s great to hear how you and your family made time for things you really enjoyed as you were growing up. What wonderful memories you have – playing the bassoon, soccer, track, family experiences – all enriching your life in ways you remember still.

Really appreciate your comments, Joe. Hope you’re enjoying activities and making memories this summer, too!

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