Glass Half Full: There is great value in embracing unstructured time |

Glass Half Full: There is great value in embracing unstructured time

Sitting in a recliner in Sandwich, Mass., deep snow surrounding the house and a balmy 5 degrees outside, and a month-old granddaughter in my arms, I find myself reconsidering time.

When our own daughters were tiny, such sitting was both precious and frustrating – and seemingly endless. There is no peace quite like that provided by a sleeping baby.

There is little more unnerving than a wailing one for whom nothing seems to provide calm. There was always so much to be done in the house.

The difference between daughters and granddaughter during those moments is the little voice of experience in my head that says, “Eh, don’t worry. Be patient; she’s all right. The work can wait.”

That inner acceptance makes a difference that even Johanna seems to sense.

We are so frequently defined by — or define ourselves by — how “busy” we are.

Today’s culture almost presents busyness as a competition. Asked how our days have gone, “really busy” crops up frequently, in some form, in many of our responses.

The real questions become “Why?” and “Necessarily?” Don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer in the value of worthwhile work and activity for any number of reasons.

Little annoys me more than the “I’m bored!” refrain that seems to demand interference from others in the way of fixing things.

My father’s opinion on the subject, which I find I share, was always, “If you are bored, you have only yourself to blame.”

There is great value in embracing unstructured time. Non-directed play for children is a gift that seems more and more rare, as parents seem to feel compelled to fill every waking minute with lessons, scheduled activities, and one-to-one attention.

So often I hear adults, myself among them, ruefully reminisce about their own childhoods, when they could scoot out the door to go play with friends and not return until dinner.

I loved those days, loved the vast amounts of time I shared with my playmates in which nobody older told us what to do. We created our own games, built forts, went on hikes, sometimes happily read books together.

We often ended up grubby, with broad grins breaking through the grime. Nobody was afraid of dirt or germs. Not surprisingly, we were rarely sick. We were rarely bored. We could look to ourselves and our friends for ideas and for companionship.

This little girl in my arms reminds me how important it is to let our children figure out what makes them happy.

Eager as I am to read her books, sing and play games with her, teach her to ride a horse … these are not things to rush. I look forward to spending time with her in which I get to be the Grandma, not the Mom.

I also look forward to learning how to be less busy when she is around. I hope I learn to listen more and direct less. At the moment, I am happy just to sit and rock and not worry about anything else.

Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at

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