“I’m bored, Mom. Give me something to do!”
The woman standing behind me at the checkout line of the hardware store handed her son her smartphone, and said, “Here…play with this.”
Children seem to be growing up bored today. And not because there is less to do, but because there are too many over-stimulating options. As a father (with a smartphone) of three kids (who all want smartphones), I think a lot about what I’m passing on to my children. A conversation with a friend recently drove this issue home for me. Doug and I had been playing basketball with some guys, and after the game he asked me if we could chat. As we sat down on the bottom step of the bleachers, Doug let out a discouraging sigh. He explained how his son, Todd, a freshman in his first semester of college, hadn’t returned his phone calls for a couple weeks. When a tear rolled down over Doug’s cheek, I thought, Whoa…my friend is an extremely sensitive man. I’d never heard a father cry over his son not returning his calls. But then he said something that not only explained his grief, but also made me think of my own parenting. He said: I’m not struggling with the fact that he hasn’t called. That bothers me some…but what’s tearing me up is the realization that I had Todd under my roof for eighteen years, and the main thing I modeled for him was how to stay busy. Now that he’s in college, he’s doing exactly what I taught him.
Todd’s eighteen years in the home coincided with the critical years of Doug’s ascent up corporate ladder. This meant that Doug worked late many nights, and when he was at home, he was never out of reach of his cell phone. He also explained how their family signed their children up for every sport their town offered. Weekends became about which parent would shuttle which child to what ball game or recital. Doug described how their family of five would go months at a time without having a slow, uninterrupted dinner together. Doug concluded by saying, For eighteen years, I told myself it was just a season and that the next year would be different. But things never slowed down. That’s the heritage I passed on to Todd…a heritage of busyness.
How are you teaching your children to take a deep breath and set a realistic pace in life? Leave a comment and share a suggestion.