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.