What happens when children and their parents overstress themselves with activities? Grandparents gave us a book that my child loved and that, once my wife explained the story (she’d read the book to our child), I had to read too. The book is from the Franny K. Stein series (which I’d never heard of); the title in question is The Fran with Four Brains (paid link). It’s about one stressed out little girl.
It’s a silly book but one with an important message. Sometimes Franny just likes to relax and do “regular-kid things.” “But her mom wanted Franny to have the opportunity to be the best she could be, and try new things, and learn about stuff they might not be teaching in school. Franny’s mom had told her that it was important to do her best and always strive for excellence.” So Franny’s mom enrolls her in bagpipe lessons, soccer, and a cooking class.
When Franny finds herself exhausted and overworked, she creates three robots to spread the work around. The adults don’t even notice they’re robots. But these robots, in their quest for misplaced “excellence,” create problems of their own. Read the book to see how Franny gets herself out of this mess.
Finally Franny and her mom have a heart-to-heart in which the mom admits all the activities are wearing both of them out. She says, “I think maybe we don’t have to be excellent at everything. I think we need to pick a couple of things, and we should try to pick the things you really and truly enjoy. And maybe, sometimes, we could just do nothing.”
Finally they realize that this “nothing”—spending quiet time together—can be “a kind of excellence that was totally worth striving for.”