Friday, 2 March 2012

How to be Free - Cast off your Watch

I’ve mentioned Tom Hodgkinson on here before.  He’s the editor of The Idler, and has written books “How to Be Idle”, “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent”.  I love the principles expressed in “How to be Free” (though not all the ideas in the book), and while I don’t agree with the term Idle I think The Idle Parent is a must-read and describes well how I was brought up and how I wish to bring up my own children.

I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring these two books, and the ideas contained in them further, in the hope that this will help me to explore further the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

How to be Free

Chapter 7 - Cast off your watch – THROW AWAY YOUR WATCH
“Time is money” – is it?  If it is then we all should get rid of the watch.  If time is money, we wear a watch to keep ourselves enslaved, to ensure that we don’t squander away too much of that precious commodity in having fun instead of earning more money.  If you wear a watch, then you are constantly aware of time and lose the art of allowing time to run away with itself, to fly or all those delightful action words that describe what time does when we are having fun. 

Tom doesn’t suggest that we should have such a lazy attitude towards time that we are always late for appointments – since we have all agreed to live by time, that would be undeniably rude.  You could though, he suggests, make appointment times more casually, “I’ll be there sometime between 5 and 6” for example.  Also, to give yourself plenty of time to get anywhere, so that you have plenty of time to be side-tracked on the way and if, perchance, you arrive early, then you will either please the other party, or have some time to idle away when you get there.  He suggests that we demand less of ourselves, de-schedule, add in more gaps to the day.

The concept of “I haven’t got enough hours in the day” is nonsense – what it really means is “I prioritised something else”.
Time Is Money

How does this match up to the Ink Spots and Grass Stains life?

As a stay-at-home-mum to two toddlers I am learning about taking life more slowly.  I took my watch off towards the end of my last pregnancy, sure that if I was cradling a baby, laying it down to sleep and then extracting my arm, the watch on my wrist would no doubt then scratch the baby and wake her up.  I haven’t put it back on.

Having small children does prevent you from really allowing time to pass you by.  If you are too laissez-faire about it the children will soon let you know that you forgot snack-time, that they are really tired etc.  Children do thrive on a routine – so a little bit of clock time can be a healthy thing: “Right, it’s about 11, time for lunch and then nap-time”. 

It’s all about moderation though.  I only go to one scheduled activity each week with the children.  In fact, during my week, the times when my nerves and my temper are most frazzled is when I’m trying to get two small children out of the house with some sort of deadline in mind.  They just will not be rushed.  Children get absorbed in their play, entranced by shaking the branch on a bush, by sitting in dappled sunlight.  The more you froth at the mouth and get frustrated with them, glancing at the clock with increasing stress levels, the more they seem to dig in their heels and slow down – surely it’s much more fun to play with my cars another five minutes that to come and put my shoes on mummy?  They are teaching me.  Yes, we do have to get places.  But I need to allow more time to get there without stressing, to allow more time to run around the Landrover a couple of times before getting in, to make putting the shoes on into a game rather than a shouting fiesta.

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