"Activity suggests a life filled with purpose." -Captain VonTrapp
Being busy makes us feel important. It makes us feel as though our lives have value. People are terrified of boredom. They fill their schedules so full that downtime is a treat and rare occasion. For whatever reason we push this same mentality onto our children. We put them in activities that they could care less about when they are way too young to handle such a crazy schedule and then wonder why they drive us crazy by the time summer comes and schedules clear.
Having a busy schedule is not good for kids. Boredom promotes creativity. It allows time for exploring themselves. It sparks their imagination and helps them identify what they are truly passionate about.
Every summer when our oldest gets done with school there is a transition period. Transitioning from being at school where everything is planned and scheduled, she is told when and where to be, and monitored every second, to being home, without a schedule and very few pre-planned activities.
The other day we "celebrated" our first day of event-free schedules by staying home, working on house projects and mostly staying in pajamas. With our younger two this is nothing new so they were off to do their own thing when I discovered the oldest in her room crying. I went in to ask what was wrong and she finally admitted she had nothing to do and was bored. I am sure you Moms can relate to my initial feelings of wanting to just give her something to do, or worse reacting like, "really? Crying about THAT?" but I pushed my feelings aside and told her what most adults should probably hear as well. I said "Listen Bre, we all have different gifts that God has put inside of us. We are all good at different things and we all need to figure out what those things are so that we can spend our time working on them." She seemed to really be listening so I continued, "Being bored is a really good way to figure out what you are really passionate about. Why don't you go up to your room and pray. Ask the Lord to give you some ideas and help you figure out what your gifts and talents are, write down the ideas, and if there is something I can do to help you with them we will go from there. The Bible says if we ask Him for wisdom he will give it to us (James 1:5)" She agreed, stopped crying and went up to her room. When she came back down a few minutes later she had a few things written down. She seemed a lot less discouraged and began working on a couple art projects. This was such a practical way to show her how the Word of God can work for her! It's also amazing how much easier children can hear from God without constantly questioning if that was really him. We have a journey still in front of us but it was a great starting point.
Since that day all three kids have played together from sun up to sun down. Restaurant, house and ice cream shop are among the activities, but most importantly they are just being carefree kids! Just as it is sometimes painful to establish any new habits with your children, allowing them to be bored is just another one of those habits. In our house we avoid electronics as a way to fill that void, and encourage reading, art projects and going outside. I remember as a kid spending a lot of time in my room or outside with my brothers. We rarely had scheduled activities and almost never watched TV. This helped me figure out who I was a lot quicker and I have always been really confident with who I am (to a fault at times! LOL.) I am glad I had that time of self discovery and I want to give my kids that same opportunity.
Let your kids be bored this summer. You might find that it won't just be your kids who discover themselves, but you as well!