Choosing how to fill the hours

Obviously, I have the same 24 hours a day that everyone else has.  I make choices on how to spend those 24 hours.  We all make choices, just not the same choices.  Recently I have been doing a lot of things outside the family bubble – more work, more socialising, more Scouting, more volunteering for LiveSimply and for CAFOD and for the Birmingham Children’s Book Group.

Right now I am choosing to focus back in on the family.  This is GCSE year with all the stress that entails just in terms of keeping morale up whilst facing mocks and reports and a feeling of impending doom that official exams tend to induce.  

The offspring’s situation is made more complicated in that he is being counter-cultural and not staying on at school or college.  I say counter-cultural, because the school system does not support young people in choosing a non-academic route.  The difference between the support offered in the apprenticeship path and that we experienced in the funding-driven university route is frankly astounding. I understand why – schools are judged on how many children go into university, so have a vested interest in keeping their pupil on to sixth form.  Sixth form colleges gain funding depending on the students they attract.  Where is the motivation to explore other paths with young people?

At home.  That is where the motivation and the time must come. It is a long, complicated and, this week at least, traumatic experience.  We have so far failed the offspring enormously by offering the wrong advice, but we have also gathered all our skills in mentoring and coaching and he is learning so much and gaining a huge amount.

We are thrilled to see some of his choices in how to spend his hours having an impact.  Applying for a job is hard work, but he had practice in applying for a place on the Scout World Jamboree (he failed to get a place, so rejection will not be new).  All his skills and training as a Young Leader in Scouts and the church youth group are being mentioned in applications, as are his experiences in Scouts of working in a team and being held responsible for activities with the Cubs. His Bivouac and Duke of Edinburgh awards are interesting and influential experiences.

Importantly this week he is learning to deal with things going wrong, with trying to schedule a lot of extra time to fill out 10-page applications in a packed pre-Christmas schedule in the middle of his mock exams.  It’s a week of growing up, of stress, but also of precious time of us supporting each other, offering advice, a shoulder to cry on and a ton of tea (me) and hot chocolate (him) and the occasional mince pie.

I have been criticised this week for having a dirty house – an example of what I choose not to do – but right now, I am happy with the example I have set of building my tribe, getting out of the house and meeting people and learning new skills and gaining life skills wherever and whenever I can.  And most of all I am proud of our ability to re-focus back on each other as a family when we need to. 

A chore tour

One of the upsides of my new working hours is that the inevitable chores that build up in 21st century life all have to be done in shorter time.  And this morning I am thinking this is a good thing.  Like lots of these things, chores just expand to fill time.  Housework and email triage are two other tasks that seem to have that magic property.  Whereas reading seems to stay well within its allotted time.  Unless it is reading rubbish on Facebook, that has very magical time properties.

Back to the chores though.  I have suspected for a while that they tend to grow in size and importance in my head because they make me feel properly busy.  However, the reality of new working hours is that my hours are now controlled by someone else, so fewer are available for the luxury of the chores.  Is there a verb there?  Choring?  Or is that something less salubrious?

This morning I am discovering a new delight in having an hour or so this afternoon when I can indulge in what I call a ‘chore tour’.  Top of the delight list on that tour is a visit to the library.  When I genuinely cannot get there as often, it feels so much more fun to go.  I don’t think I have looked forward to going to the library like this since I was about 10.  And I am very pleased to be getting rid of the bags of clothes that have been waiting for the charity shop for a couple of weeks.  And that parcel that needs to be posted.

Here’s to an hour or so of dashing around ticking things off a list, can’t wait.

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