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Op-Ed by Meghan Peterson
“hiare – Latin verb meaning to gape; to yawn”
As we progress through spring and look toward what is traditionally vacation season (i.e., summer), the word “hiatus” comes to mind for this mama – although, it does not enter the mind of my boys. That is certain.
Even as they yawn, my Baby and Four-Year-Old remain determined and steadfast in playing “Mommy, we are not tired!” as they pause, take stock of the yawn they thought I had not detected, realize their “weakness” was detected by Mom, pretend the yawn away, and run away from me before I can catch them to bring them indoors for bath time.
As I chew on this word, “hiatus,” I observe ways in which a culture of “hiatus” has attempted to take hold. I will explain.
“Hiatus” has multiple meanings, including “a break in or as if in a material object; gap; interruption in time or continuity; break” and derives from the Latin verb, “hiare,” meaning “to gape or to yawn.”
Parents know what it is to yawn. I sure do. Why? Simple. There is no such thing as a “hiatus” from parenting; it is a job you do not get to sign into or out of on your time sheet. For their part, kids do not take “hiatuses” either, but for different reasons than jaded adults long to do so. They do not fatigue to the degree or extent we do. This comparative point is not about issuing a judgment on adults. Rather, it functions as a recognition that hiatuses do not go hand in hand with the lifestyle of youth – in general.
As a matter of course, kids need rest times. They need down time. They need moments during which the clutter of activities and duties abate. But hiatus connotes an abrupt stop, a time and space of discontinuity, of “interruption” – the likes of which may be antagonistic to conditions of consistency, continuity, routine in which children thrive and flourish.
Imagine, from a child’s perspective, for example, if his activities were suspended, “interrupted” for months or years on end without warning. Wait, that happened.
Imagine if conversation, education, faith, music, sports, theatre disappeared and went away “on hiatus” for an unmarked, unspecified amount of time. Wait, that happened. We will see effects and consequences of said mass “hiatus” in years to come.
When viewed from this lens, the tangible applications of hiatus give us pause as to its merits – if any existed at the outset. Why? Simple. Kids require – indeed, demand and deserve – consistency, continuity of play, imagination, learning. The world is their classroom. When their world goes on “hiatus,” when their world becomes abridged and constricted, so, too, do opportunities for knowledge-gathering, liberty-practicing, and wisdom-seeking become threatened.
Back to Baby and Four-Year-Old. They insist on playing beyond the temporal marker of bath time and engage in this active rebellion against any semblance of a “hiatus.” But maybe they have it correct after all. There is a reason (perhaps myriad!) that children have boundless energy. Hiatus culture is not one of them.