Well, most of me can't wait. A big part of me is longing for the relaxed schedule, days without anything scheduled, and hours playing in the sun. In my head I have this picture of my kids happily running through the sprinkler while I enjoy the sun, a book, and a nice tall glass of lemonade.
Our culture today does not embrace boredom. We have come to view boredom as a sickness that needs a cure. Children's lives are scheduled from morning 'til night with activities, classes, camps, and sports. We even schedule their playtime with a "playdate." I have been asked multiple times as summer approaches what classes or camps my kids are signed up for and my answer, "none." I'll probably find a swim class at the neighborhood pool and I'm sure we will plan some "playdates" but what I really want is for my kids to experience boredom this summer.
Yep, you heard me! I want my kids to be bored. Why? Boredom is a gift for the imagination. Building our children's inner life is important and imagination is a big part of their inner life. Our inner life drives our motivation, self-esteem, problem-solving skills, and more. All of these are important for building a foundation for success later in life.
So, how will I embrace the gift of boredom? How will I not give into the pressure to schedule my kid's days from morning 'til night? What can I do when they complain for the hundredth time that hour that they are bored? Here are three ideas:
1. Appreciate Boredom.
I don't know about you, but sometimes the thought of bored kids scares me. It scares me because sometimes it does bring out the "mommy monster" in me. I get frustrated and start to yell. But after reading some research on the benefits of boredom, I knew I needed to get the mommy monster under control and shift how I view and how I communicate with my kids when they are bored.
Instead of dreading my bored kids, I started appreciating the boredom. Here's how it looks in a conversation with my kids: When they come to me complaining that they are bored, I give them this simple response. "Oooo, I'm so glad you are bored! I can't wait to see what you come up with to play." With this response I'm planting a seed. Rather than focusing on the boredom, we are focusing on what they will do with their boredom.
2. Refrain from Filling the Time
Camps, classes, and sports all have their place. Sometimes they are childcare for a working parent or a class can provide an experience or knowledge for our children that we may never be able to. But as summer approaches, I want to make sure I am not filling ALL of their time. It is important to leave time for open-ended play and hours to be "bored."
Another way I fill time is by offering suggestions of how my kids might fill the time. This is a tough one for me. I don't know about you, but I love to fix things. I love to be the one who offers the brilliant solution that makes everything better. When I do this for a bored kid, I'm robbing them of the internal process of coming up with their own ideas.
How do I respond when my kids keep pestering me? Sometimes I leave it at "Ooo, I'm so glad you're bored! I can't wait to see what you come up with to play." Other times I'll give them an open ended object or experience as a starting place. I'll offer them a box and tell them to surprise me with something. Other times I suggest changing locations like going outside. I'll tell them I'll check on them in a bit and I can't wait to see what they've decided to do. These suggestion still require them to call upon their imaginations and inner selves to come up with the solutions to their boredom.
3. Taking Care of Me
When I'm tired, over-scheduled, or have been parenting 24/7 without a break, the mommy monster comes to visit more often. My reserves are depleted and I easily loose sight of the gift of boredom. Taking care of myself makes me a better parent.
There are two levels to this. The first level is the daily rhythms of self-care I establish. For me, this means getting up before my kids so I can read my Bible, pray, journal, and go for a run. This rhythm focus' me on the truth I build the foundation for my life and it gives me the space to process my thoughts and feelings. The second level is the weekly or monthly rhythms. Consider what you do that replenishes your soul. Is it making time to have heart-to-heart conversations with a friend, working a favorite hobby, or going on a date with your husband? For me, its being creative in the kitchen or working in the garden. Both of these feed something deep inside that make me a calmer, happier, and more engaged parent.
These are just three ideas that I'm working with right now. I'd love to hear how you and your family embrace the gift of boredom. Fill free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.