My kids claim they were terribly bored this summer. We didn't do anything, they whine. Mommy worked non-stop and here we are, already careening past the first day of school and I'm sure the monsters have already blabbed to their friends how uninteresting their summer vacation turned out to be. Boooooo hoo. Every single one of them was actually excited to go back to school. Hmmph. Well, the jig was up anyway. I was ready for them to go the heck back, too. I was probably headed for a nervous breakdown if school hadn't shown up when it did. So there.
Seriously, we went on two vacations this summer. My bank account will show that we are a bit broke following two said vacations. What's up with these kids? What gives? Maybe they'll appreciate the memories when they're older. Either way, I also worked a ton over the last several months. Just because it's summer for them, doesn't mean work stops for Mom.
So, when they say they were bored most of the time, they're likely referring to all the times Mom & Dad had to work, and Grandpa was in charge back home. It's his fault. Just kidding. Totally kidding! My Dad is older, so he can't exactly chase them around the neighborhood. Plus, we're living in a time where kids seem to prefer to sit on their tablets and phones rather than enjoy the outdoors. When we weren't doing something we'd planned as a family, our kids were left to be independent. Whether we sent them outside or sent them to their rooms or wherever, they spent a lot of time figuring out what to do on their own, or sometimes in pairs or trios, but not always with us. Which leads me to the whole point … it's okay if your kids are bored. Boredom isn't a bad thing. It's not the enemy. It's not our job as parents to keep our kids entertained 100% of the time. If we schedule and plan every moment of their days, they'll never learn to do it on their own.
Boredom can lead to the following amazing outcomes…
1. Solitude. It's so important for a kid to know how to be alone. He or she can't always depend on another human being for comfort. Especially for my ASP kiddo, being alone recharges his inner batteries, so he can be around other people again later on.
2. Reflection. Being able to just be and hear one's own thoughts is a huge thing. The world is non-stop, endless noise and stimulation. This is not a new idea. It's been pushed for decades. In 1993, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips wrote that the “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 said in his book "On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life."
3. Using one's imagination. When a kid is bored, they're more likely to come up with ideas for things to do on their own. Send them outside with no plan except to wander. My mom used to send me into the woods alongside our house and sometimes I'd end up sitting on the hill staring off across the meadow, while others times I was adventuring through the trees looking for fairies and elves, building little houses out of sticks and rocks.
4. Trying something new. Sometimes as parents we get caught in the summer camps, the vacations and the day trips (which I do love to do), but we have to allow kids to find what interests them naturally. Boredom can often lead to those discoveries. Our oldest learned how to cook basic meals this summer.
5. Self-Reliance. The more independence a kid has, the more self-reliant they'll be. I've had to force myself to step back at times. It's hard. On the other hand, I work from home during the week, so I've also had to demand space at times just to get things done. At some point during the summer, it clicked for the kids that they could write, draw or craft in their rooms without having to get permission or fit it into a schedule. We didn't adhere to any specific schedule many days and the kids went off and did their own thing, relying on their own interests to make it through the day. Don't worry, we remembered to make meals… most days.
EJ Curran is a Delaware mom. This post was adapted from her blog, FourLittleMonsters.