"I never thought that I’d have to work so hard and pay so much to give my kids a chance to do nothing. Not nothing, per se, but activities that don’t transfer well to a resume, like swimming in a lake, running to get mail, talking without the aid of technology—the types of activities we used to just call life—the type of activities they still call life in the tiny village of Fresvik."
I could easily be a mom living in Fresvik, Norway. Easily.
Contentment is my middle name. I like nothing better than to take long breaks and walks and picnics.
But I'm living and raising kids in 21st century America. Times have changed. Summer has changed.
I've spoken to three families in the past month who could not schedule a family vacation into this summer because of overlapping sport schedules and camps. The time, money and energy needed to orchestrate activities for the children made it near impossible for the family to regather around the ol' wagon wheel.
I picked this up somewhere as I eavesdropped into a conversation:
"My girlfriend recently gave me her daughter’s college resume to review. It was four pages long. Every minute of high school was meticulously accounted for and for what? She is going to the same college that I attended. Will she fare that much better there than I did? Will she fare that much better in life? And what about my girls? Will they have to run track, preside over student council, paint for the art show, spearhead the Homecoming Committee and save the whales to get into college, too?"
I hate to tell this lady yes, you will and so I turn away from the prospect. It's a dead subject anyway.
I've sent three children into the larger world. I know the reality. Prove yourself bigger and better than the next person is the battle cry. If you aren't doing something you aren't being productive. Whatever happened to creative boredom? Whatever happened to lazy dog days of summer? What happened to being barefoot on the front lawn? What happened to just saying no...not only to drugs but no, to the world controling our summers? It's an exciting new world we're living in.
Scary exciting maybe. I'm one of those hippie types who thinks too much stimulation and excitement is the cause of our country's discontent with things, places, and one another. We are living high on expectations and anxiety and aren't willing to come down off our experiences in order to admit that we need to take a break from this exciting new world.
Most of us realize that it isn't only the school programs that dominate our lives but the clubs and communities we are a part of. We aren't happy with being content anymore. We have to be better than that and we're dragging our kids along with us.
I sit at dance competitions and in school hallways and I hear the talk. We compare over-scheduled planners and lives, myself included. I've always excused my life as the fact I didn't stop with the normal quota of two kids. The more kids one has, the more the to-be, to-do, to-go list grows. But the schedules I compare mine to under a magnifying glass mostly consist of families with two or three children.
When did we give up contentment for chaos?
For myself, it began when I became a mother...and I compared my schedule (or lack of) to other parents' schedules. I've been part of the rat race for a long time. Now I'm looking for my Fresvik-ville.
Something tells me there's a Fresvik, Norway available for all of us...even families who cannot schedule in a summer vacation. Here in Louisiana, Hodges Garden State Park provides and affords any family a small spot on earth to get away from the current century of fast living and just breathe a little.
Known as the "Garden in the Forest", this state jewel is as tranquil as a still pond. There are cabins on the lake at various prices or it's an affordable day trip for campers surrounding Toledo Bend Lake area.
There are streams, waterfalls, stone quarries, and a Natural Garden along with hidden stone paths throughout the forest.
My only regrets are that Flag Island and the greenhouse, which I remember from my childhood, are now closed. But the park's assets are alive and green and flourishing. These photos were taken this past spring. I'm sure the heat of summer is stifling and the blooms have finished their life's cycle, but if you're a natural walker, the forest paths are cooling and the shaded towers make this an excellent walker's paradise for those who desire to walk all year long.
For others...the cool days of autumn are right around the corner...directly after the start-up of school and dance classes and new clubs and church beginnings and rec sports and everything else life has to offer.
I know your days will be busy (and some weekends too) but look now at that crazy, lop-sided schedule and search for one weekend that promises a chance to do nothing.
Nothing at all.
Read the History of Hodges Gardens.