The kids are doing the countdown to summer! I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that 2019 is almost half over. I’m not sure how that happened so fast. We are already looking ahead and planning things for December.
Do you remember what your summers were like growing up? Mine were spent rarely knowing what day it was, let alone what time it was. As long as my mom had a general idea of where I was, and I was home before dark, the possibilities were endless. Each day started with the thought “I wonder what I’ll do today.”
There is something so magical about having a day that is a blank page, no plans, no commitments, beyond maybe chores that needed to be done first. It’s something most adults rarely experience anymore and it’s becoming a rarity among our children today.
As a kid I was rarely bored. Mainly because if I ever went to my mom and said, “Mom, I’m bored,” I’d find myself cleaning the house for the day. A parenting technique I carried forward with my kids. Boredom is a breeding ground for innovation and creativity. It’s when we learned to make our own games like “Falling off the mountain” — my sister and I would put a blanket across the hood of my mom’s station wagon and try not to slide off.
If it was a rainy day and we were stuck inside, we played “Man to man”. The title makes no sense, but our made-up game involved my sister and I drinking tea and pretending to be British aristocrats who talked trash about their peers.
Much of my creativity as a writer comes from having the freedom as a kid to figure things out for myself, including how to entertain myself. I often turned to my imagination. I wrote stories, I created whole worlds for my toys.
For some reason many parents today feel this need to schedule their kids with activity after activity, often without consulting the child. If we as parents are so busy filling our kid’s summer days with scheduled activities, how will the child ever learn to do this for themselves? What you create is a child that turns to you and asks, “What am I doing today?”
That is sad. As parents, our job is to prepare our kids to be a part of society. To be able to be independent. If they have little to no say in how they spend their time, or aren’t allowed to have the time to be bored, how will these kids ever entertain themselves as adults? How will they learn to take initiative to make something happen, if plans are always being made for them?
There are many well intentioned parents doing this out of a sense of obligation to provide entertainment for their children. My advice is let them be bored, and let them figure out how to entertain themselves. With kids who have never done this, it might take some time. The kids may even be confused because they have never had to be the architect of their own day.
Out of boredom comes creativity. If these kids are never allowed to be bored, what happens to their creativity? I’ll tell you what, it isn’t fostered or developed. Psychoanalyst Adam Philips wrote, “Capacity to be bored can be a developmental achievement for the child. Boredom is a chance to contemplate life, rather than rushing through it.” He goes on to say, “It is one of the most oppressive demands of adults that the child should be interested, rather than take time to find what interests him. Boredom is integral to the process of taking one’s time.”
Why are some of us so afra id to let our kids, or even ourselves, be bored? Frankly, I’d pay money to be bored these days. Some might argue that idle hands are the devil’s playground. That could be true, but even through mistakes children learn.
If you want to create an adult who lacks initiative, vision or responsibility for self, keep scheduling these kids within an inch of their lives. Keep telling them what they should be doing rather than letting them figure what where their interest organically resides.
A child’s summers are numbered as are the days of childhood. They will spend most of their lives scheduled. Let’s give them a bit of magic and wonder, while fostering creativity. Let them be bored!
You can learn more about Natalie Webster and her adventures in the Lake Minnetonka area at WebsterEffect.com.