A Little Bit of Boredom

Summer is here, and my children’s appetites for adventure and fun are as voracious as ever. The first week of summer was filled with play dates, and every single day included at least one trip to the pool. (One huge inflatable duck included, obviously.) Now it’s time to get back to the real world, and the transition has turned mornings with friends into mornings with a mom who works from home. 

My children aren’t entirely thrilled with the change. A working mom is a lot less fun than friends and the pool. Unfortunately, they’re stuck with me.

The truth is that my job is a huge blessing to our family. I am happier and healthier when I’m working, and my earnings allow our family to enjoy things we wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. Additionally, I have a wonderfully flexible part-time job that allows me to enjoy much of the summer break with my kids.

Still, for several hours each day, I’m working behind a computer screen or attending important meetings and events. Like any typical American family, we often rely on electronic devices to keep the kids entertained while I’m working. Recently, however, I’ve been asking the kids to spend less time looking at screens and more time doing something else…anything else.

At first, I was met with significant resistance. Then, I was faced with annoying claims of boredom.

My initial reaction was to help them come up with alternate options for entertainment. It wasn’t long before I realized I didn’t have enough time to plan their entertainment and complete my work. So I placed the responsibility back on their shoulders.

My children are 12 and 10 years old, so I knew they could figure something out on their own. Even when they were younger, I was often amazed at the things they would come up with if I simply left them with their own imagination for a time.

I’ll never forget the Saturday several years ago when they raided our recycling bin and created a “Chore-Bot” who could complete a dozen different household tasks at the push of a button. My favorite part was when they brought the Chore-Bot out to the living room to present a product demonstration. As my son shoved unfolded clothes through the front of the robot’s chest and closed the door, my daughter pulled the clothes through a hatch in the back, quickly folded the clothes, then placed them back in the robot’s chest cavity through the secret hatch. Proudly, my son opened the front door of the Chore-Bot’s cardboard chest and pronounced, “Ta-da!” I was blown away by their imagination and creativity. I was more than a little disappointed that the Chore-Bot wasn’t real.

Perhaps the best outcome was the confidence my kids felt after their presentation. They knew they had created something special, and they were proud of their effort. Their eyes sparkled, and their smiles beamed.

Yes, that Saturday started off a little rocky when my husband and I declared that it would be a screen-free Saturday, but the result was well worth the initial grumbling.

You see, a little bit of boredom can lead to a lot of good.

It isn’t only imagination and creativity that are strengthened when a child’s independence is exercised through boredom, though. Too much activity can leave a child feeling detached from their emotions. 

One of my children gets overwhelmed quite easily. In busy seasons where we bounce from one activity to another, this child gets edgy and short-tempered. We used to be perplexed by these little “phases” that seemed so out of character, and we were somewhat frustrated that our child couldn’t tell us what was wrong. It was only when we slowed down and gave our child space to reconnect with themselves that we found an answer. The key was to slow down and get quiet. Boredom came first, but it led to understanding.

This Summer, if you feel tempted to entertain your child every morning, afternoon, and night, be assured: sometimes the best thing you can do for your child is to let them get bored. The results might become some of your favorite moments and some of their fondest memories.

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1,7

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Lindsay Goodwin