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Why You Should Teach Kids to Play Hookie

August 20, 2014

David called from work the other day to tell me he has to attend a conference out of town. He went on to explain that it’s in Orlando, FL and he wants Brynna and I to go with him. His plan was to take off work to stay an extra day and take Brynna back to Disney World (i.e.: LITERALLY her favorite place on earth where dreams LITERALLY do come true).

postit-play hookieYou’d think my first response was excitement. Or gratitude that my husband loves his little girl so much he wants to take off work just to make her so happy. Or if you know me, you might think I immediately began questioning. (I ask a lot of questions. A lot.) Or if you know me REALLY well, you probably assume my response resembled big eyes and a deep breath because Disney World is LITERALLY NOT my favorite place on earth.

Either way, you’d be wrong.

My first words were “Brynna will be in school,” and in my mind, that meant the conversation was over. I was kind of surprised it had even started. Family trips weren’t planned during the school year when I was young. You didn’t miss school unless you were sick and even then, you were going to need some hard evidence to argue your case for staying home. (And by hard evidence, I mean the puke needed to be witnessed by at least one other person and their recollection of the account be placed on file and notarized. I don’t know where the file was kept. I just know at a moment’s notice your mom could tell you exactly how many days ago your last proposed sick day occurred. Clearly there was a file.) Perfect attendance was a badge of honor you wore with hard-earned pride. So when David suggested it, I was admittedly kind of appalled. I couldn’t believe he would suggest something so foolish. He’s normally such a smart man.

Fast forward a few days when I was talking to a friend on the phone. She was encouraging me to take a break because I wasn’t feeling well but refused to stop my very full schedule. Like clouds moving suddenly to reveal the sunlight, I had an epiphany. (No, I have no idea where Brynna gets her flair for the dramatic.) The realization hit me square in the heart. Here I am, refusing to take a break – bitter and worn out because of it. And my initial reaction when David suggested a fun repose was to teach Brynna to do the same.

It’s completely natural to revert to the way you were first taught. Psychologists call them learned behaviors. Over time and experience, we become programmed to do things a certain way. But what if that way isn’t best? What if there’s another option that’s better? Or just different? My response wasn’t “wrong.” The way my (and I bet many of your) parents did it wasn’t “bad.” It’s not about that. It’s about freeing yourself from what you think HAS to be to consider what COULD be. It’s about letting them stand on our shoulders.

If Brynna begins at the same starting place of life as me, I’ve done her a huge disservice. If I lead her into making the same mistakes I made, how sad would that be? I want her to start on the other side of my heartaches. Sure, she will face difficulties in life, but she doesn’t need to repeat mine. One of my on-going struggles is the ability to relax. We live in such a hurry-up world. We are surrounded by stress and strife. If I don’t teach her how to take a moment to breathe, relax and refresh, she will assuredly find herself right where I was that day – bitter and worn out but assuming I had to keep going because “that’s just the way it is”.

I’m not sure if we will take that trip to Orlando, but I know that I won’t stop us from considering it. I know I will teach Brynna the importance of rest. I know that in addition to being responsible, committed and dependable, I will teach her how to be still. I will teach her to work hard, and I will teach her to play hookie.

So she will know the difference between work and toil
So she will appreciate times of rest
So she will learn that life doesn’t revolve around being busy
So she will learn that no one gets an award for most things marked off the To Do List
So she will learn that who she IS is more important that what she DOES
So she will see people
So she will breathe…and remember what a blessing it is do so

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