My daughter has 10 WEEKS of summer vacation this year! I hate to admit it, but it’s got me a little panicky – she is typically ‘bored’ by the end of the first week, so what are we going to do for the other 9? It’s also a little tricky because I work out of the house, so my physical presence suggests that I am always ‘available’.
I must admit that, on occasion, I have been known to fall into the ‘if your kids don’t have at least 8 hours of fun every day, then you’re a bad mother’ trap, but I really should know better. Truth is, even if I could come up with enough activities to keep my daughter blissfully entertained all summer, I would not be doing her any favors (although I’m sure she wouldn’t see it that way :)). She needs to learn how to entertain herself and I need to learn how to not feel guilty about it.
I’m not going to pretend that my motives for insisting that my daughter entertain herself are purely altruistic. As primary caregiver, I also need some ‘breaks’ in the day, to get things done and to rejuvenate, so that when my daughter and I spend time with one another again, it’s with renewed energy and not resentment. I love to spend time with her and consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity, but feeling tired and frazzled, won’t benefit either of us in the long run.
Who amongst us hasn’t physically ‘cringed’ when they heard the words, “Mommy, I’m bored!” (I think we’re so sensitive to it because most of us have forgotten what it feels like to be bored). The toughest part is stopping yourself from reacting and trying to convince them that there are lots of things to do (after all, you know that their closets are full of things that they haven’t played with in months). You’re not going to convince them that they are not bored, so save your breath. Do your best to smile and confidently assure them that you know they’ll figure it out.
It sounds strange, but kids also need to learn how to be bored – after all, there is something to be said for slowing down, daydreaming, looking at the clouds, thinking and just ‘doing nothing’. Kids these days are involved in so many extracurricular activities that, when they don’t have something to go to, they’re not really sure what to do with themselves. Sometimes, the act of being bored, can actually bring out their imagination and creativity.
These days, there seems to be an expectation that parents ‘entertain’ their children and keep them busy every hour of the day (in fairness, these expectations can be self-imposed). Truthfully, all of these Martha Stewart DIY gurus on the internet don’t help, either (very few of us could ever ‘measure up’). However, I don’t remember my mother thinking it was her responsibility to entertain my siblings and I. Other than a week or two of swimming lessons and perhaps one week of camp, we played on our own, with one another or with friends in the neighborhood.
I walk around my neighborhood now and very rarely ever see kids playing outside. Unfortunately, technology is largely to blame for this. So much of the summer is spent inside, playing video games and watching TV. Granted, it is so much easier to take the cap off ‘screen time’ and let kids spend unlimited time on electronic gadgets, leaving time for you to get things done and maybe enjoy some time on Facebook yourself, but the consequences can be seen in your children’s stifled creativity and growing waistlines. Plus, being bombarded with multi-media breeds dependence on it, making it almost impossible to be entertained with anything less.
At the beginning of summer vacation, my daughter and I had a chat about what we wanted to ‘do’. At that time, I made it clear that, although I definitely wanted for the two of us to spend time together, she was also going to be on the hook for entertaining herself. Initially, she was less than enthusiastic about this prospect, but before long, she took it upon herself to come up with some ‘boredom busters’. She found several excellent websites with ‘summer bucket lists’ and then added some ideas of her own. Here are a couple of websites you and your children can check out for ideas…
I’m thinking of doing something similar, but writing down various ‘chores’ that can be undertaken together in the summer (e.g. clean out my daughter’s craft supplies, organize photos, etc.). My hope is that, if tackled in small, manageable chunks, we’ll be able to cross some of these ‘to-do’s’ off my list, too (well, one can hope, can’t they?!).
It’s true…every day is definitely NOT a carnival, but we both have to learn to be good with that!