Last week, here in Ontario, the kids were on March Break. That meant every activity you can think of was packed to the rafters with parents and kids, trying to keep their kids busy for the week.
I didn’t take any time off this year, and because I am able to work from home a few days a week, we decided that for those two days, the kids would stay home and – gasp! – entertain themselves.
Don’t worry, they got to go out and have fun; seeing a movie, having ice cream, going to an indoor playground and hang out with their grandparents and cousins, thanks to my husband taking a few days off. But even with all these things planned, crafts and activities and movies to watch at home, the infamous sentence was uttered at least once each day.
What sentence, you ask?
I don’t even entertain it any longer. These kids have a room full of toys, shelves full of movies, Netflix at their disposal, bookshelves full of books and they have each other; built in friends and playmates. How? How on earth can they be bored?
Well, I honestly think it’s because we over schedule. We have created this idea that if we don’t fill each day for them, with fun and exciting things to do and places to go, how on earth can we expect them to fill that time on their own?
It’s guilt. And social media.
See, we are working parents. And there are sites designated to help us figure out what to do with our kids every waking second of the day; afterschool activities, weekend getaways, March Break madness, and the list goes on.
And yes, I fall into the trap of feeling like I have to do something with my kids, but at the end of the day, sometimes all that effort doesn’t pan out. And sometimes when it does, it creates an expectation of…more.
I’m not sure what my girls think is going to happen when they say to us, “We’re bored.” But my answer has started to be the same, “that’s not my problem.”
Harsh? Maybe. But D and I try to explain to them how lucky they are. But I suppose perspective is everything and they may not understand how lucky they are until they are older. Perhaps even with kids of their own.
I’m not going to give you giant sob story, because I think I was pretty lucky too. My parents were working parents, but they gave us a lot. We often spent entire summers being dropped off my grandparent’s house, or cousins’ house. The reality was they didn’t have supply of toys kept there to entertain us. We had to bring whatever we wanted that day. And then we had to bring it back home. The idea of leaving it there never occurred to us.
It probably didn’t occur to us because we were going to play with that toy again when we got home. We didn’t have multiple channels that played cartoons and kids’ shows round the clock. We had lots of toys, but not as many as my kids have. And I don’t begrudge them of those toys, but this excess sometimes gets blurred. It doesn’t occur to them how much they have.
My parents also never took a day off work to take us to the movies, or the zoo, or for ice cream, or whatever else we do. It didn’t help that my parents had their own company, but even before it became theirs, that was never an option. Never even a thought. March Break, summer holidays and even a PA day was really more of an inconvenience. Figuring out who could watch us was top priority. Not if we were going to have fun or not. And guess what would happen if they couldn’t find somebody to watch us? We went to work with my parents. And don’t even get me started on how not fun that was.
But sometimes we did have fun. But if I did, it was because I made the fun up myself. Or my older cousins were home to let us tag along on their adventures. But more often than not, we were alone, with Italian-speaking grandparents, who had their own lineup of things to do. We could watch TV with my Nonno, as long as he was watching something in English. More often than not, I’d watch the soap operas with my Nonna, or try to help her in the kitchen, if she would let me (which wasn’t often).
So I would say I read most of the time. I used to bring notebooks to write in, or I’d play with a deck of cards, or whatever Barbie I had and brought. That pretty much summed it up. My favourite part of the day was watching The Price is Right before lunch, then having lunch with Leave it to Beaver and The Flinstones. After that, I sat around, or went back to my books and writing and played a mean game of solitare.
And yes, these stories are equivalant of my dad’s “I used to walk to school uphill – both ways, with no boots or winter coat” stories, but I can’t help it.
Again, I ask, it comes back to the mystery of how they be bored with a room full of toys and movies and tv shows at their disposal.
And again, I blame myself.
I want to always give my children everything; more than I had, and more than I could dream of. I work to make their lives better, and their futures brighter. But I truly think that we overdo it. We over schedule the fun, we over promise the excitement. We don’t allow for the down time. The quiet.
So while I worked from home, the girls had a movie marathon one day, while playing and crafting, and colouring. They were so good and seemed to enjoy having a day to chill out and relax. Pjammas may even have been worn for most of the day. By all of us!
And my second work from home day had them on a self-imposed “no electronic” day. So they played with their dolls, and played ‘school’; made a store out of the family room, complete with store signs and money to buy things. They did utter those words a couple of times, but I encouraged them to find something to do. At one point I even dug through the cupboard to find some melting beads, which kept them occupied for over an hour. If you want to see the outcome of that, you can check out my Instagram. (hint: it didn’t end well, but the tears were only mine, not theirs.) And yes, I did give them that activity to do, but that’s only because I hide those when they are done with them, or I would be sweeping those bead up daily.
The truth is, I think it’s okay for kids to get a little bored. It sparks their imagination. It develops stronger bonds between siblings. And when you do plan a fun and exciting activity, I think it’s appreciated just that much more.
At least I hope so.
What do you think? Do you think we over schedule our kids? Do you think we need to let them be bored once in a while? I’d love to hear your thoughts? Leave me a comment and let me know.