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Saturday mornings were always my favorite time of the week when I was growing up. The rules were a little looser: we could sleep in a little later, keep our pajamas on a little longer, and watch a little more television than usual. The cartoons were better on Saturdays, too. And, even though they were entertaining, they always tried to slip in a little lesson along with the laughs.
Use your imagination.
Knowing is half the battle.
Work together.
Everyone is important.
Be yourself.
These are the lessons I remember from some of the shows I enjoyed on Saturday mornings.
Since having children of my own, I have noticed that Saturday mornings aren’t what they used to be. The cartoon selection seems lacking (but maybe I’m just a fuddy duddy), and the educational pieces all seem to follow a cookie cutter model. Teach shapes. Teach letters. Insert a conflict. Solve the conflict. Everyone is happy in the end.
And, honestly, Saturday mornings aren’t always as restful as I remember them being when I was a kid either. Meetings get scheduled on Saturday mornings. Sports practices fill up the weekend. I’m not really intending to debate the good or bad of that, but it is something that I have noticed.
So, this morning, when my kids actually slept in about an hour later than normal, and there were actually some cartoons on TV, we decided to have a lazy Saturday morning with Saturday morning cartoons. The show was about trucks, and the jobs they do. Most of the premise had to do with teaching kids how to build shapes using lines and other shapes. I was pretty pleased with the math and engineering ideas they were sharing, but then the moral lesson caught me by surprise.
One of the younger trucks was working very hard, tirelessly. The older truck said, “Now, you need to learn how to rest, or you’ll burn out.” The rest of the show featured the younger truck proudly showing, “See! I’m learning how to rest! I know how to take a break!”
Is this a problem for our children today? Is burn out something that they are heading towards when they are in preschool and elementary school?
Or, are we trying desperately to teach our children lessons that we think we missed out on? Are we preaching messages to our children that we really need to be preaching at ourselves?
I think adults can be really good at projecting their own problems onto their children, at least I know I’m pretty good at doing that.
Are our children facing burn out? Or are we? Are they having trouble saying no because they want to please everyone? Or are we afraid that our children will fall behind their peers if we don’t sign them up for every single opportunity that arises?
I’m sure that there are children who are so motivated that they need guidance in setting boundaries. I am certain that with all the pressures to be in everything and to succeed that many kids are afraid of saying no to opportunities, even if saying yes will be harmful in the long run. But, in my limited experience, it seems that most children begin their lives filled with wonder, imagination, free-spiritedness, and dilly-dallying, and then we parent that out of them.
Sometimes we have to. We can’t take three hours to get dressed in the morning and still make it on time to work or school. Teaching time management and promptness are important. Helping children find their passions and encouraging them to pursue them is such a gift. But, I wonder if sometimes we project our grown-up problems, our personal struggles and pitfalls, onto children who haven’t yet stepped into those traps.
“Now, you need to learn how to rest, or you’ll burn out.”
It’s true. Burn out is a real and sinister problem. As a minister, it’s something I have to be very intentional about avoiding. I need to take the time off that’s given to me. I need to set aside a day off, and on that day off I need to set boundaries about what things are emergent enough that I am called back in to work. I need to wrestle with what it means to take care of myself because if I don’t learn how to rest, I’ll burn out.
And, perhaps the self-care and boundaries I set for myself will model to my children what it looks like to do the same for themselves.
So, today, what I had hoped would be a relaxing Saturday morning cartoon experience with my kids instead has me wondering if (and when) I project my personal struggles onto my children who haven’t yet had the opportunity to fall into the same traps I have. And, I’m asking myself if I am living my life in such a way that I’m nearly ensuring my kids will struggle with the same things I have, or if I’m teaching them to live differently.
I don’t have the answers yet, but I can pour myself another cup of coffee. I can watch another cartoon with my kids. It may not be the whole answer, but I have a feeling it is a start.