My kids have been out of school for 2 whole days, and ennui has already swept my family. The last day of school came with a big hurrah—my oldest daughter hosted a pool party with 23 high school friends and then we celebrated my middle daughter’s 8th grade graduation.
Then she and her father flew to DC for his board meetings and their tagged on father/daughter 14th birthday getaway, leaving me with 2 kids who aren’t enjoying a fancy hotel adventure.
Wednesday it rained and I took my oldest to endure a 5.5 hour lactose test leaving my son at home to entertain himself.
We ate a late lunch and putzed around the house.
Even more boring.
I tried to spice things up and treated them to hot fudge sundaes instead of dinner with an expiring Groupon. Then we had the rest of the night before us.
Yesterday I tried to work in the morning, hoping my son would sleep in. But by 8:30 he began badgering me, making snide comments about how I shouldn’t be working when he’s on vacation. As if it’s my job to entertain him or ensure he’s entertained.
Maybe I am at fault.
As I’ve allowed my kids to buy into the intensity and over-programmed culture of our entitled suburb, maybe they no longer know what to do with free time, or how to be satisfied just being rather than doing. Between school, homework, piano, tae kwon do, periodic plays, and periodic forced bouts with the swim team, I’ve allowed my son to expect that his life should be jam-packed with activities. And now, with 2 whole days of unprogrammed time, he just doesn’t know what to do with himself.
Come to think of it, adults have the same problem, which is why disciplines of solitude and silence can be so important.
One of my mentors who raised 4 kids in Kenya used to say her sons needed to learn how to be bored in school—you can’t expect to be entertained or challenged every moment, and learning how to handle themselves in boredom was a life skill.
Another friend used to say to whining kids, “You’re such smart and creative kids that I’m sure you can figure something out to do with your time.”
When I was young I’d think, “Can’t waste time in boredom, each second that ticks by is another second wasted and then I die.” (Cheerful kid, wasn’t I?)
Of course, these days “screen time” solves boredom most quickly and efficiently. Screens can keep us endlessly occupied, even if after the end of a TV marathon or minesweeper extravaganza (that’s me, not the kids), we still feel empty.
I’m finding myself commanding my son off the various screens around the house throughout the day, hoping he’ll find something else to entertain himself. At 10 p.m. Wednesday night, he rediscovered Knex and made an amusement park tower , complete with a bungee cord ride and several pools.
Yesterday, he grudgingly accompanied us to the mall where we sat in massage chairs at Brookstone while his sister shopped. Then he made a bow and arrow set out of Knex, rubber bands, electrical tape and a twig and has been shooting everyone and everything.
I don’t enjoy stepping on Knex or dodging the latest missile, but it’s a start.