I’m Teaching My Son Boredom

Last summer, our family lived in a unique season of frequent appointments. We were in the middle of building a house, which meant trips all over town to see every guy and gal in the house construction business. At the same time, I was in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy with our second child, which meant frequent trips to the doctor. Both the house appointments and the OB appointments sometimes lasted 2-3 hours (or more). I found myself breathing a sigh of relief if we had a free weekday that did NOT involve a waiting room or a scheduled meeting!  

While in the thick of this busy season of meetings, I quickly realized that as a mom, this meant figuring out how to get through these brutally long appointments with my six year old. For weeks, I felt guilty for shuttling him around with me – a doctor’s waiting room here, a tile showroom there – blah, blah, blah. Even though my wheels were constantly turning to soak up the information from each appointment, there were times when my little sidekick was just plain bored. There even became the daily habit of him asking me “How many hours???” this or that appointment would last each day. Talk about some major #momguilt of summer ’17.

I mean, yes, we always brought things to do while we waited. He kept a backpack full of books and word searches and colored pencils. But, inside my own head, I struggled with the guilt of his painfully mundane days spent doing “adult stuff” – stuff that didn’t entertain him in the least and certainly didn’t revolve around his interests. Maybe it would have meant I was a better mom if I had scheduled lots of play dates to keep him entertained while I was gone. Or, even easier, maybe I would’ve felt better to just pay a sitter so he could stay home while I do all the running around. After all, what six year old wants to sit there while his mom agonizes over the perfect shade of greige for our family room. Seriously, so painfully boring.

Crazily enough, shortly into our summer, things took a turn. I started to notice a positive change in my son’s long days and my mom guilt began to lift. Instead of frowning upon our daily errands, they simply became our routine. And, a little unexpectedly, I started to see so many good things coming from these hourly obligations and how we were both adapting to this schedule that was not our norm.

My son was learning boredom, which in turn meant learning so much more.

Our hours spent coloring, talking or playing made-up games were fostering creativity. For my son, saying “no” to other forms of entertainment while waiting and waiting (and waiting) meant him drawing, building, conversing with strangers, writing notes to friends, and getting creative with his surroundings. It was so encouraging and refreshing to see him learning to really feel boredom. I wanted him to sit in the thick of it, to figure it out, to not have him always expect an activity to be placed in his lap to keep him amused and entertained. And, as cruel as it might sound to some, I felt grateful for these long waits that gave him time to understand that our days would not (and should not) always revolve around his little life. Like every family, we set aside special days for family fun, but the reality of a “normal day” is that things just have to get DONE. Family life requires work to keep our houses clean, errands to be run to keep all our members moving, and tasks that keep our days organized. Such is “real life”, and I will always want my kids to fully understand that we don’t always get to plan our days with special treats and activities. As a mom, I’m thankful for summer ’17 and that those big doses of boredom helped to encourage my son toward contentment in the mundane.

And, now that we’re approaching summer ’18, I’m intentionally planning some healthy doses of boredom into our summer schedule. A fun-filled summer schedule is great, but a little bit of boredom never hurt anybody either!

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