Laughing children
Photo: Thinkstock
I have a confession to make: Neither of my sons plays an instrument. They don't get enough Spanish or sports. And yet, on many weekends, even as their friends go to violin or soccer or language lessons (or, in some unnerving cases, all three), even as I sometimes wonder whether we are ruining their chances of ever getting into college, my husband and I not only allow but encourage them to stay home and do nothing, not even put on their clothes.

Pajama Day, as it has reverently come to be known in our home—a day in which we play games, hang on the sofa, listen to our 8-year-old read sick jokes from his joke books or our 10-year-old describe his favorite rocks—is one of the ways we're trying to teach our kids that time is not just a commodity to be spent but also a blessing to be enjoyed. Other things we try to do (and try is the operative word: As working New York parents, it can take all we've got just to stay awake) are give the boys massages, listen to their sometimes endless stories without half-reading or half-typing something else, stop en route to wherever we're invariably rushing to point out the details in this building facade, the wiggle in that little dog's walk.

It isn't easy. Especially as the boys get older and academics ramp up, along with the amazing things some of their peers seem able to do—rock climb! play double bass! do the math of a kid five grades ahead!—the pressure to enrich our kids' enrichment program increases, as does the guilt we feel lolling around in our pajamas listening to the one about the 8-year-old who removed his mom's appendix.

But the harder it becomes to preserve our little rituals, the more important it seems to preserve them. Luckily, we are supported by our kids' school, which is based on the teachings of the Jewish philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel, who wrote extensively about sanctifying time. God created the world in six days, and then what did he do? He rested. Jews are also commanded to rest on the Sabbath, to pause, to enjoy their surroundings, to build what Heschel called a cathedral in time, rather than in space. The school tries to teach kids to appreciate time by holding ceremonies to mark the introduction of new subjects, asking them to write about "wow" moments, starting each morning by reciting special prayers.