Today is Friday. Contrary to the teeny-bopper warbling of Rebecca Black, you do not need to get down tonight (or up, or sideways). Instead, your plan should involve precisely nothing – especially if you have children.
Author and speaker Jen Hatmaker gives this command to overachieving mums and dads at the beginning of every year, and I appreciate it greatly. This week, in a Facebook post, she wrote:
Having endured a full week of school, your kids are a living disaster. Their bodies and minds are exhausted beyond all measure, and they can handle exactly none additional stimulation. They used up all their energy capital getting through a week of school, and now they are like pod people who need to be put on the couch with Popcorn Dinner and a movie and that is the end of this tale.
It doesn’t matter if your plans are FUN and THINGS THEY LOVE and DELIGHTFUL because the only thing they can handle is nothing. No thing. Also? They don’t want to talk about it. They don’t want to give you a dissertation on where they sat for lunch and what the rules are and who are the new kids and what are they learning. This is all dead to them. Leave them alone. They don’t want to talk or go to a loud restaurant or the trampoline park or your sister’s birthday party.
Rent your movies, order your pizza, shelve your questions, and let them recover.
I, for one, am here for this. Saturdays and Sundays will inevitably be filled with birthday parties and other craziness, so it is nice — no, it is necessary — to have at least one sacred evening to hibernate in sweat pants while impressing no one.
You can do a movie night, as Hatmaker recommends. Or lay out a picnic blanket in your living room, eat on paper plates and play board games (my colleague Heather Hass highly recommends this one). Or do what my family did a few weekends ago and sit in a tent in the backyard, declare it a “no phone zone” and read books with flashlights. Or do none of this. Whatever. Sometimes, I tell my family it’s “sardine time,” which means we all just lay under a sheet on the bed and pretend to be sardines.
In order to have a successful night of nothing, you may need to cancel your plans (here’s how to do it without being an arsehole) or put actual white space on your calendar. It’s not easy to break the habit of always doing things—having no plans can make me twitchy. But we need this, and we know it. We’ll see each other when we emerge.