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Summer Time Is for Wasting

Lenore Skenazy on

With the lazy, hazy days of you-know-what upon us, should you worry about your kids goofing off? Being idle? Spending tons of time making sculptures out of wet, squished Kleenex (toilet paper works, too!) or any other odd hobbies they may develop?

Sure! Worry all you want -- if you think that who you are in life is a direct result of your not having wasted even a single minute as a kid.

Most of us just aren't that efficient (she wrote, leaving her computer to get a cup of coffee and then spending 10 minutes scrolling through her emails). (Now 20 minutes.)

All of us spent some of our childhood practicing a skill of truly limited market value, often, for some reason, involving knuckles. Would we be five steps ahead in life if we'd buckled down and read more Balzac?

Probably not. Because wasted time only looks wasted through the distorting lens of fear.

Berkeley history professor Paula Fass, author of "The End of American Childhood," explains it this way:


"It actually wasn't until the 20th century that people started thinking in terms of 'developmental milestones.' This is the idea that by age 3 a kid can start to share, and 5-year-olds should understand lying, and at 10 kids start to question parental authority (a stage that lasts another 60 years)."

These milestones -- flogged in books, magazines and mommy groups -- were responsible for a whole new worry: IS MY KID ON TRACK? And then, because making parents worry is our culture's favorite pastime, more and more aspects of childhood started getting milestoned: By 3 they should be enrolled in T-ball! Reading at 5! Coding by 10! And if your kid wasn't hitting those marks?

All bets were off.

That's the fear.


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