My Summer Accident & Boredom

Summer in our home began with a bang. Literally. I was helping my husband put a piece of dock in the water by our lake camp when I overstepped the end of the dock and plunged into the water. On the way dawn, I impaled my backside on a metal bracket. I passed out climbing out of the water and when I awoke, I was rattling around in the back of my car, which felt like it was going 100 mph to the hospital. My husband was driving and talking on the phone at the same time. Had I been in my right mind, I would have been scared to death.

The ensuing three weeks felt like six. Not just for me, but for our nineteen year-old son. He had just returned for the summer after finishing his freshman year of college, ready for a fun-packed few months. What he got was three weeks carrying his Mom from the bed to the couch and back again, grocery shopping for the family and changing bandages on my backside. (What nineteen year old wants to do this, let alone see his mother’s backside?) As much as I would like to say that he did so without complaining, I can’t. I heard a few moans and saw him roll his eyes on more than one occasion. No frank complaints, but I could see them.

Ironically, two weeks before my accident, I sat in The Today Show studio chatting with Meredith Viera about summer and stress. Many mothers dread summer because we worry about what to do with our kids. We want them to eat blue popsicles, have watermelon fights and be transformed by spiritual experiences at camp. When they return to school in the fall, we want them plump with satisfaction about their fresh summer experiences. The problem is, summer doesn’t often bring satisfaction for kids and mothers are left feeling guilty and inferior. So, I bluntly told Meredith that during the summer we should teach our kids how to be bored. Not exactly what she expected to hear.

Teach-kids-how-to-be-bored?  Yup. That’s what I said. And summer is a great time to do this.

The truth is, as much as we yearn to give our kids experiences which will enrich their lives and give them great memories that will help them remember how good life was at 10, we need to be about the business of teaching them how to live life well. This means, having the tools to wade through all sorts of situations which life throws at them and emerge from them stronger.

If we strain to constantly keep them happy, how will they learn these lessons? They won’t.

Much of life is boring. So we need to teach our kids how to enter into boredom and figure out what to do. My mother did this and you can probably remember your parents telling you to go outside and play (aka- get out of their hair.) We no longer do this with our kids because we are afraid that if our kids are bored, then we are bad parents. I don’t think so. I think that good parents allow for boredom in their children’s days so that they have the opportunity to use their imaginations to make fun appear from nowhere.

You needn’t fall off of a dock and impale your backside to help your teens be bored. But don’t be afraid to give them empty hours where they need to strain to figure out what to do with themselves. The great news is, with the strain comes the striking of the imagination, the flowing of the creative juices and recruitment of inner resources they never knew they had. Most often, the only way they tap into these is during times of stress and boredom. How dare we prevent them from finding these because when they do, they are ready to experience some of the really good stuff in life.

What do you think about letting your kids just…be? Even if it means they’re bored.

  • Craig

    Ow, Meg! Just thinking about your accident makes me wince. Trust you’re recovering well.
    Re: bored kids. Back in 1994 (when our eldest was 6 mo old), we cut off TV and only use the box for what and when we decide. We got the kids library memberships early on in life and today they are avid readers (several books going at one time). Whenever we hear them say they’re bored, we assign them a job around the house. Guess what? Not bored anymore. (We still assign them jobs just to keep them thinking). We also trade exercise for movie time. Half an hour of exercise equals half an hour of a DVD. That gets them going if they have a favorite show to watch, which is often. We make Sunday family day, and after church the day is ours to hit the beach, hang out at the river, take a hike, whatever. We let them taste boredom while giving them some tools to figure out what they should do. Now, at ages 17 and 14, because they enjoy reading, know how to work, and value exercise, they rarely wander about aimlessly.

  • Catherine

    Being bored….it is the best thing for them for all the wonderful reasons you said. It still isn’t easy for me, because of the influences around us, but I know giving them time to be bored is good and healthy!

  • Tammyada

    Great idea. I already do this with some balance. Thank you for confirming that it’s okay.

  • http://Www.FamilyLifeLearners.com NamasteMamaRose

    I love this-it’s so true-we have so much overstimulation in our culture- I cringe wen my daughter is bored and asks for the iPad or my phone. I love Craig’s comment above about what their family does. My girls havegot wild imaginations and I’m all for them figuring out how to use them more. We already do no-tech Sumdays, but I’m going to add assigning a chore when they start acting bored!

  • JazerNorth

    My 3-year old knew boredom. She now just goes and plays and creates all on her own. I love to film her making up stories while she day dreams with her toys. Only thing is that when she sees me filming her, she stops. No Fun!

    Ah Well – I’m sure we have more days ahead where her boredom will be around again. Thanks for the information.

  • Melissa G

    I hope you are fully healed from your accident. I heard a great quote recently. “You must cross the river of boredom to get to the land of adventure.” Not sure who said it, but I LOVE it.

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