When it comes to weekends and school vacations, I tend to think of myself as a landlubbing Julie McCoy. Julie was the cruise director on the fabulous but fictional ’70s cruise ship the Love Boat. Between the ports of LA and Puerto Vallarta, Julie would plan activities for the guest stars. It was her job to make sure everyone had plenty of fun things to do.
Like most families, our weekends are usually hectic. My husband and I divide and conquer the Garden State. We are two SUVs that pass in the driveway—dropping off, picking up and grabbing snacks. Between kids’ sports, birthday parties, plans with friends and homework, “free” time is rare.
But when I see an opening on the calendar—be it a whole day or just a few hours—I feel the need to fill it in with stuff to do. I schedule and plan trips to grandma’s house, shows, family bowling. It can be challenging sometimes to find things that everyone wants to do, but like Julie, I feel it is my job to make sure we are busy and having fun. I never want to waste a free day.
I keep a big paper calendar in the kitchen where I write down all of the activities for the whole family. Usually it is pretty hard to read—the boxes are so crammed with stuff. But one Saturday morning, after my first cup of coffee, I checked the calendar and discovered that February 16 was blank.
Webster’s Dictionary defines “nothing” as “not any thing.”
Based on that definition, we in fact had nothing to do.
And here’s the crazy part: I left it that way. Even though at first it felt a little unnatural, on February 16, my family did nothing.
Years ago, I read a book to my kids titled Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, by Simms Taback. In the book, Joseph’s coat keeps falling apart, but he is resourceful. He makes the coat into a scarf, and then the scarf into a tie, and so on. The moral of the story is that you can make something out of nothing.
All of my kids were surprised when each of them woke up and separately asked me “What are we doing?” and I replied “Nothing.” It seemed a little unnatural.
But like Joseph, my kids are pretty resourceful and turned their nothing day into something. They wore their PJs all day and played board games that usually sit on the shelf because there is no time. They read books that weren’t required for school. They played a computer game—all three of them—and they laughed hysterically.
At night, we all watched a movie together.
The best part of the day was that all three of my kids—who usually pass each other in the halls or sit side by side in the car with earphones on—spent the day together and had fun doing it. To my husband and me, that was really something.
For the remainder of the February break, my inner Julie was up to her old tricks. We went back to being busy: tickets to the Devils, a two-day ski trip, haircuts, et cetera.
But I am going to try to give Julie another day off in the near future, because it turns out there is nothing wrong with a nothing day.
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