Laughing children
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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.
We are not religious. I don't believe in God. But I have come to believe in prayer as another way of conditioning our children and ourselves to revel in the moment. The prayers at school are not so much those that ask for things but those that give thanks for what we already have. In kindergarten students give thanks for waking up another day. In first grade they move to the miracle of light following darkness again that morning.

What effect any of this is having on my sons is still too early to tell. They're kids. If they could skip morning prayers to sleep late or use Pajama Day to play on the computer, they'd be thrilled. But I am starting to see the profound effect it is having on me. As I rush to a meeting, I find myself stopping to notice how brilliantly the sun is illuminating a particular yellow leaf. When I get off the phone with my mother, I find myself pausing to feel grateful she's still here. When the boys bounce on the sofa in their pajama bottoms—both refuse to wear tops—I find myself focusing less on whether this means they'll have to do their college course work over the Internet and more on how impossibly smooth their little chests are, how fine the collarbones, how it's just a matter of time until these parts become bigger and coarser and someone else's to caress, not mine. And I take a moment to caress them now—despite all else we could or should be doing—because the moment is what we have, and it's sacred.

Lisa Wolfe lives in New York with her family. She is working on a novel.

Make Every Moment Count


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