Why I Don’t Care if My Kids Are Bored
Disclaimer: these are my personal thoughts on the matter. Do not take them as parent-shaming.
That being said, I don’t give two craps if my kids are bored. At no point during pregnancy, did anyone say anything about having to entertain them 24/7/365, and I don’t.
My son, who has ADHD, will often complain to me that he is bored. Somehow he thinks this is my problem and I advise him every time that it is not. He doesn’t seem to understand that is not my job to make sure he is engaged every minute of the day.
I think back to when I was a kid. Growing up, we didn’t have the same stimulants that the kids today do. We had one TV, no cable. I’m not suggesting that my way of growing up was better, the old “Back in my day!” bullcrap that people pull.
When I think about it critically, I will say that the ability to manage my boredom and self-regulate became important. My parents didn’t do this intentionally, it just sort of happened. My parents engaged with us kids, we did stuff together and the like but they did not make our activities the most important thing.
Recently, we were traveling to a family event and stopped in Georgia for the night. We popped into a nearby restaurant for a bite and at the table next to us, I saw a grandfather, a mom, and three children: two boys and a girl. The girl was without a digital device and headphones. She was chatting and being playful with the adults. The boys, however, were plugged into tablets with headphones on and ate distractedly and never once engaged with the other people at the table. The smaller boy’s tablet went wonky for a minute and he freaked out and interrupted the adults to have the mother fix it.
I thought about that scene for a bit and the reason that it made me sad is that dinner time is a great time to connect with everyone in the family. My children have to sit at the table and patiently wait for the food to arrive. I don’t mean to suggest that they don’t complain about the wait or groan about how hungry they are. They do. It is time for us to be together. I even ask that the hubby puts away his phone, as do I, and we talk. At home, we don’t bring phones to the table and the TV is off during meals.
As for boredom, the thing that is important that the kids learn is to rely on themselves to find things to do. Using their imagination and creativity is important. Working together sometimes, they will create a new world, like Planet X, and stalk around the yard looking for alien life forms.
My children were required to collaborate and delegate duties. They crafted space suits and made up rules for this exploration. Soon, the other children in the neighborhood were recruited to join the expedition. As they passed by me, I was considered a “hostile alien” and everyone was warned to keep their distance. I found it all very amusing.
None of these kids were being told what to do or say, or what to play. They came up with it themselves. They made their own rules and they policed each other if the rules were violated. I just oversaw, from a distance, that no one got hurt.
By the time the evening rolled around and the children dispersed to their homes, my son was inside writing down the day’s findings and creating a manual for the next exploration team that should come along. He took this manual to school and I think a new field research team was recruited there for further discovery. My only criteria for all of this was that my 10-year-old son includes his 4-year-old sister equally. That was it.
Every day I feel like I have to balance between parenting in a way that won’t get Child Protective Services called on me by another “concerned” parent who feels that I am not doing what I should be doing, and giving my kids enough leeway to discover the world on their own. I remember being about 6 years old and allowed to walk about 1/4 mile to the corner convenience store for a soda or a treat. There was concern from the parent of one of the neighborhood kids who wanted to go with my son to the corner store to get Combos that I would let my 10-year-old do that.
Each parent has to figure this out for themselves. I feel that I am not doing anything to help my son by taking away all the obstacles in his life, including boredom. I get bored, too. It is something that he needs to learn to manage on his own.