Today was our day-long Destination Imagination tournament, the grand finale of all of the boys’ hard work along with their team since the team-based, problem-solving challenge began in last fall. The Bigs and four girls, plus two siblings (including my youngest) met on a weekly basis to create a skit that showcased the their chosen challenge (robotic technology). Grown ups aren’t allowed to help at all. They built scenery, wrote the scene, planned their costumes, and practiced, practiced, practiced.
I could tell both of the boys at times during the season felt like they had signed up for more than they could handle. My oldest had basketball practice for that overlapped with DI for the first couple of months. My middle would sometimes gripe and complain that “you always sign me up for things I don’t want to do!” This is the farthest from the truth. We were sitting at the orientation meeting with one of his best friends who also participated, but just wound up on a different team. My sons were initially the ones that wanted to do this; I was concerned about the commitment (especially because we met on the night when we used to have Pasta Night!). As of this morning, neither was sure he wanted to participate again next year but both could honestly say they were glad for the experience.
The event began at 7:00 a.m. and we arrived right about on time. Come to find out, that is just when registration actually began. We had a lot of time to “kill” before our first mandatory activity at 10:45. By the grace of God, it was a sunny and warm first day of spring. We still had all of our baseball equipment in the car, and the basketball. We had a blanket. We signed in, read the rules, got our tee shirts, and then made a beeline for the baseball diamond. We claimed our spot as though we were on a beach. Our team leader and her daughter joined us. Soon thereafter the rest of the team convened.
We wound up watching a few other teams’ skits and our team had to participate in an “instant challenge,” which we adults had nothing to do with and were not allowed to discuss. But other than those events, and getting some pizza in the cafeteria, we spent the entire day outside.
When I first saw the agenda, I was dreading all the downtime in between mandatory activities, but it wound up being a wonderful blessing. I brought the manuscript I am working on so I could steal a few moments here and there to edit. The kids brought their Nintend DSLites but they didn’t use them much: it was too sunny!
Our team all had the same shirts on; and our school all had the same color, so when the kids took off inside the fenced-in track area, I was not at all concerned, in fact I was rather relieved since some of the other kids had been forbidden to play baseball — some other team-manager-moms didn’t want anyone to get whacked with a ball or a bat. True, the area behind the plate was teeming with children, but the actual baseball diamond was pretty much free and clear.
The kids made up some sort of game that involved a very large mat (probably used for pole vault or high jump). A few moms were in attendance; they admonished the kids a few times about not jumping on top of each other (“One person on the mat at a time!”) .
I thought about how structured kids’ lives had become and how having this free time built into the schedule was actually quite liberating. Time to do nothing in particular. What would you do on a sunny and warm first day of spring if you had seven hours free? (We weren’t at home so no one had to think about any chores.) Now go right ahead and do it.
I consciously chose to let the boys run free. I remembered how it was when I was a kid and could go outside and just hang around. I was right nearby in case anyone needed something to eat or a bandage. But otherwise, I knew the boys could use a good dose of downtime built into their schedule for free play. They had earned it.