Navigating the tricky waters with four kids, 7 and under, I often hear the oldest two express after school, on a day off, or on the weekend: “Mom, I’m so bored!”
So I begin to think about a really good response for my kids. In our culture today, it’s like it’s a sin to be bored. With technology at our fingertips and where everyone and every thing is producing and occupied by something, how is it okay to simply not do anything? To simply be?
I eventually come up with a suitable response: “Good, that’s a good thing. It is good to be bored!” I say with confidence – pronouncing the “good” – not wanting to give into the temptation to let them play a game on my phone.
My son looks at me strange but by the second week of him saying the bored statement, he knows how I will respond and he finds something to do. He gets out his journal and writes at the top of the lined paper, “Things I Saw When I was Young.” The title cracks me up because he’s only seven. He writes a precious list of memories in our old home and seeing his siblings after their births. My five-year-old starts to play nurse with her sister, bandaging wounds and taking temperatures. And the little ones joined in on the play.
Obviously, there are times when you need a break and letting your kids have screen time helps you and them. During meal prep, my house would be in flames if it wasn’t for Netflix. But I know I’m giving my kids a greater gift when I just let them “be.” Here are three reasons why:
1.) Your kids will have a time in the day when they aren’t being stimulated by something. A full school day alone involves stimulation with noise, lunch, P.E., music, chatter, school work, demands of tests, expectations, and more. When your kids have a time of day where nothing is going on, it gives them space to breathe. They learn about themselves and the world around them without any prodding. They see life for what it is outside of constant stimulation and the responsibilities required of them.
Unplugging and embracing the boredom gives them the gift of solitude, serenity, and calm – where nothing is capturing their attention or has their focus until they create it. It opens their minds and hearts to questions and connecting with Mom and Dad, siblings, and friends on a deeper level. Some of my kids’ best questions have happened on a quiet car ride home where they’re staring out the window. “Mom, if we drive our cars on the streets of gold in heaven, won’t our wheels be slippery?” being one of my favorites.
2.) Your kids will have the opportunity to be wildly creative and use their imagination. Some of the world’s greatest artists, poets, writers, and authors began their careers out of boredom. Because there was nothing to do at the moment, they picked up a paintbrush, pencil or pen and began creating. They soon discovered a gift and a passion beating in their heart so strongly they couldn’t live without. Without the time to just “be” they otherwise might not have tapped into that giftedness. And our world would be a much darker place without their art.
Instead of feeding our kids what they are to do, we give them the freedom to discover what to do with their own time. We pass off the responsibility to them and this gives them ownership. The words, “Mom, look what I did,” allows us to see how they’ve used their imagination and should be received with joy. Using their imagination is also simply letting them be kids and seeing the wonder in the world.
3.) Your kids will see that life is not all about them. I have never regretted the times when we actually acted on our boredom and got in the kitchen to whip up chocolate chip cookies to give to our neighbors or when we colored on cards to mail for friends we knew were hurting. I have never regretted the times when we were bored and went to the park only to meet an acquaintance that is now a dear, life-long friend.
In those times, my kids have seen that in our nothing-to-do-ness, we can create memories, friendships, and go outside our own little bubble to extend a welcoming hand to another person. I want my kids to know that life is not about them or me but about serving others.
In a culture that is rapidly changing, producing, and shipping, are we satisfied to just be? Can we live our lives in such a way that we allow the boredom in our homes to be transformed into something really, really good?
Who knows, it just might make a big impact on the world around us.