I see it too much. This look on a parent’s face: a tightness to the jaw, a grimness to the mouth, fatigue and frustration, picking up their children at the end of a school day, rushing off to the next thing. Hurry up soccer, hurry up piano, hurry up tutoring, hurry up dance hurry up hurry hurry hurry we have to be there in 15 minutes. Get your backpack pick up your jacket have you got your homework, let’s go.

Second shift kicks in, after a long day at work.

We train these kids to get on the hamster wheel, thinking it is for their own good. Is it? When I think of it, I didn’t want to do anything after school when I was a kid. I wanted to go home and see my mom, who was always so happy to see me. She’d make a little snacky, ask about my day, and it was chill time until dinner, and I’d read or watch TV or listen to the radio or play quietly. It gave me a chance to process my day, to have my own thoughts, undirected by anyone or anything. After dinner if the weather was good, I might play outside with the neighbor kids until bedtime – some game or jumping bikes off a dirthill or exploring. I was responsible for myself. I could choose.

Second shift has time for none of this freedom. Each weekday is scheduled to the minute. Activities, doctor and dentist appointments, some sort of food shoveling called dinner, loads of mindless pointless homework, clean up, bathtime, and then it is time for the kids to hit the sack. The parents, fried, collapse in front of the TV because they don’t have the energy or focus to do anything else but take in Lost or Grey’s Anatomy or, my god, American Idol. It starts all over again too early in the morning, and goes on each and every year until the kids are shoved off to college and end up back home because they don’t know how to manage without someone telling them what to do.

The parents say to them, “We provided you with everything!” and don’t even hear what is behind those words.

Where is the sweetness of unfilled time? What kind of people do you create without it? Those who feel bored and jittery if they don’t have some kind of outside direction or electronic stimulation to feed them? Where are the ones who can daydream, who can think of the new ideas to bring to the world, ways of saying and creating and building and being? More ominously, what kind of people do you have who are conditioned be shoved from here and there and never question it and end up craving it? Some nasty politician’s dream, is what.

Your child isn’t going to be a pro basketball player or a concert violinist even with all those years of lessons. What they are going to remember from all of it is that look on your face, the tightness of your jaw, the grimness of your mouth as you tell them over and over, hurry.