Today, most of us will not allow our kids to be bored. It’s like the 11th commandment: Thou shalt not be bored. We quickly drive them to the mall, the movies, suggest they invite friends over, and wear ourselves out so that they don’t need to figure something out. They have pools in their yards, finished basements that are more fun than the boardwalk and yet they can’t figure out what to do with themselves when they have some down time.
When growing up if I ever told my mother I was bored, she simply said, “well then you’re boring. Figure something out or I’ll give you something to do,” which usually meant clean the bathroom, organize my closet or clean out the garage. I learned quickly to find something to do.
My childhood was heaven because I was lucky enough to live on a cul-de-sac with 4 other families all of whom had kids within a year of each other. Our mothers had the same mantra: “don’t bother me, just be home for dinner.” So I had 4 mothers, 11 friends, and 2 dogs at all times willing to walk to school, ride bikes, play tag, baseball, hopscotch, hide and go seek, play with Barbie and GI Joe, and chalk the sidewalk.
No boredom and no parental intervention. Well, I take that back…with 4 mothers someone was always lifting a window to tell one of us to get a sweater, but they never intervened unless Sandy was crying or Val had a tooth knocked out. Aside from that, we were on our own.
I was reading an article about how today’s children have a problem with self-regulation. I think that’s a new way of saying that kids today don’t know how to “figure it out.” I don’t think they know how to self-regulate because we regulate and figure it all out for them. Take this conversation I had with a friend of mine to try to find the time for their family to come over for a bar-b-que:
“Andrew (16) will have very little time this summer because he is volunteering at the Goryeb Children’s Hospital, and he will need to start his SAT prep classes, then he is taking a 4 week course at Cornell, then some one-on-one pitching training with a private baseball trainer, then perhaps a follow-up with another SAT prep class.”
I’m guessing little Andrew would love to be bored. As a matter of fact with this sort of summer he may even enjoy cleaning the bathroom or organizing the garage.
My summers were a bit different: Volunteer? I volunteered to weed my grandfather’s garden. SAT Prep? We didn’t even have summer reading back then and besides, IT WAS THE SUMMER! A college course at an Ivy? No comment available that could be printed. Training to excel in a sport? My brother went 0-99 at bats one summer. My dad’s solution: try soccer.
Then to make matters worse, I read that many schools are banning the game of tag and dodge ball during recess. My friends of a similar age, I ask you…can you even believe this? Too many kids left out, they say, too many kids with hurt feelings when they aren’t picked for a team. Really? How about when they’re not picked for a college, for a job? And judging from my high school reunion, those kids who weren’t popular enough then to be picked first for a playground team are now titans of their industries. It all comes around sooner or later so relax.
I admit…I’m not much better with down time. Usually when I find myself with nothing to do I exert myself in Nordstrom and I was just as intent on making sure my kids built their college resume with the best of them. But I’m forcing myself to embrace the down-time without drinking too much wine.
I’m trying to figure it out, as my mother would say. Funny thing is, yesterday I spent an entire day cleaning out my closet! My grandfather would sometimes say he was “watching the air.” I’m trying to do that too. It really is lovely on my back deck. I’ll try and stay out of Nordstrom when I have nothing better to do and instead pick up a book. Maybe even pick up a pan which would make my husband very happy.
And I think the tide may be shifting… My daughter just texted me from college to say she was named captain of her intramural team. “What sport,” I asked. “DODGEBALL,” she replied.