Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Other Side of Boredom

          It seems like everywhere I look, someone is pinning or posting or blogging about boredom and children, with titles similar to "27 Activities Guaranteed to Beat Boredom!" or "101 Boredom-Busters to Help Your Kids Have the Most Fun This Summer!" or "Be the Coolest Mom EVER!  Tips to Keep Boredom at Bay This Summer."  (Note: none of these are actual titles.  I just made them up based on pins and blogs and posts I've seen.  Though, some titles really are that silly!)  This is my response to that whole category... 

          Here's how the conversation has gone in our house a few times per child, usually sometime between their 4th and 6th birthday:
          Child:  "Mama, I'm BOOOOOOORED." (glassy eyed stare)
          Me: "Boredom is good for you." (unblinking stare, and silence)
          It usually only takes a half-dozen or so times for them to learn that their boredom is not my problem, and they stop.  If this happens again when they are older, I will quote the saying, "only the boring get bored" or maybe find another such quote for them then. 

          Why do I believe that boredom is "good" for them?  It's what I have seen that lies on the other side of that boredom. 

          Boredom is the monster lurking at the end of entertainment.  It's the sneaky swamp-thing that lies at the end of the movie, or the dull nothing at the end of a book.  It's that beast that dulls the mind after a party or outing or field trip.  I have found that boredom most often comes when I am left to my own devices to come up with something to occupy my time and thoughts. 

          But at the other end of boredom, when I have faced that monster, that swamp-thing, that nothing, is my creativity, my imagination, my best and brightest self.  The overcoming of boredom, if channeled well, is beauty, and creation, and fun!  If not channeled well, this can become destructive, ugly, and mean.  I must choose, and choose well! 

          Mastering boredom helps my children exercise their imaginations, to test what they are capable of, to see the beauty of their own imagination.  I have watched them make toys from paper and tape, read books that challenged their reading level, create their own games, turn sticks into ninja swords (then run across the yard, brandishing their ninja swords at imaginary enemies), and many other things.  All because of boredom that was channeled or staved off because of active imaginations. 

          If I had chosen to entertain them instead, none of these things would have happened.  And, knowing my children, the entertainment would have ended, leaving a vacuum (boredom!) that had to be filled time and time again.  It becomes an endless spiral.  For my girls (and I suspect, most children), the more "entertainment" given to them, the quicker the boredom sets in.  When largely left to do their own entertaining, I seldom hear "I'm bored!"  (Almost never, in fact.) 

          I guess I need to remind myself of this, under the relentless pressure to prove I'm a "good mommy" by endlessly entertaining my children, or providing them expensive and electronic means to entertain them.  As I see pin after pin or read blog after blog or FB share after FB share of what "good mommies" are doing to entertain their children, I often wonder if I am messing up.  Then I look outside and see my dirt-covered children smiling and laughing in the back yard, making up their own games and feeding crickets to the chickens.  And I realize I'm not.  I realize I don't actually feel the conviction do be doing these things, just the "mom-guilt" because I'm comparing myself to others.  I'm picking that burden back up, one I'm not meant to carry.

A Week at Home

We sold one home and bought a new one in January.  The home we bought didn't have evaporative coolers or air conditioning.  (Known out here as "swamp coolers" or "refrigerated air" respectively.)  So, this week, we've been having swamp coolers installed.  Yes, two of them, because of the layout of the house.

This has forced me to stay home this week.  We have to let the men in and out of the house, as well as put the dog up while they're here.  The exception was Tuesday, when the girls had violin and cello lessons.  But, the contractors had a previous engagement that day, anyway!

As I sit here, the girls are playing in the yard, coming in and out on a relatively cool morning. 
We've played with kinetic sand (one of Fidget's birthday presents), and discovered that it's sand and silly putty, according to one website. (Here)  We've decided to buy some sand and silly putty and try to make it.  (Once we can leave the house, that is!)  Maybe I'll take pictures and post them here.
We've played Just Dance Disney, and learned that the Cowgirl dances circles around all of us.
The girls had a "sister sleepover" (read: they all slept in one sister's room), and have begged for another.
We've done minimal chores, and just enjoyed the time together.
The Cowgirl has been reading Black Beauty for the last couple of days.  She rarely puts it down, even to eat.
Last night, we let them stay up late and watch The Lego Movie.
This morning, we watched YouTube videos of bagpipes.  Why?  Because the girls had never seen bagpipes before, and their cello teacher had asked them if they had.  Being curious children, they wanted to see and hear bagpipes.  They learned they like bagpipe music.  With their family tree, that's a good thing!  (The Engineer has neckties in the family plaid.)

In short, the girls have had the kind of week that should be every kid's summer -- bubbles, and squirt guns, and mud pies, and books, and laughter.  No real structure, no real agenda.  Lots of time to be "bored" and discover what lies at the other end of that boredom.

I'm looking out the window, and I see Fidget with a blanket tied on, cape-style, tail dragging the ground.  Probably, she's some kind of princess or queen.  Most likely, Frozen related.  How she isn't hot, I'll never know.  But I do know her hands are covered in mud, her face dirty.

I can hear the Cowgirl, turning pages on her book and occasionally commenting on the pretend going on around her.

I would love to bottle these days, to save them for the dead of winter when the days cold and short, and so is patience.  I would open the bottle, let in the sunshine and fresh air, the laughter and laziness, the boredom and what lies on the other side of that boredom.

All-in-all, it's been a good week.  A week of "yeses" said because there was nowhere we had to go.