HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
July 30, 2007, Herald Journal

The ‘I am bored’ proclamation


I spoke with a teacher on one of the first days of summer vacation about the uniqueness of each school year for teachers, parents and children. Each year has a beginning, an end, and a revival and rest period.

That revival and rest period for us in Minnesota and most of the United States is called summer vacation.

As a parent and a teacher myself, I wouldn’t have it any other way, and neither would the teacher I was speaking with. There are valuable lessons learned and gained during summer vacation, and in just plain being bored.

Yes, bored. I am certainly not negating the importance of spending time with our children nor children’s involvement in activities. But sometimes you have to be without something to know what you are missing and to realize how much you really enjoy it.

As the teacher put it, it’s OK for our children to be bored sometimes and be ready for the start of a fresh new school year and all of its possibilities.

The teacher also commented that sometimes parents these days try to fill up their children’s time so much that there is no time for rest, relaxation and boredom.

In fact, just two weeks into summer vacation, although not because of boredom, my seven-year old daughter announced that she couldn’t wait for the school year to begin. She missed having all of her friends (and teachers) in one place at the same time.

It is equally important for children to use their minds and creativity to learn to entertain themselves without expecting someone else or something else (the television, etc.) to do it all of the time.

At times, our children may need some suggestions and help with ideas for play, and thus the reason for play and art ideas in the content of the Kids’ Connection articles (because sometimes we, as parents, need some help coming up with new ideas as well).

I grew up on a farm, so my parents were always around the farm somewhere, which was very comforting to me. But a farmer’s job is 24-7, so my parents were busy with one task or another.

Although we, my twin brother and I, had chores to do around the farm, we also had plenty of time to play, and we, for the most part, had to be the creators and initiators of that play.

My twin and I, and usually some neighbor kids or relatives, were pretty creative in our forms of play. My parents were very supportive of our imaginative play. They didn’t get caught up in the messes we were making. The rule was, “Just clean it up and put it back where you found it when you are done.” That was that, and we did it.

I don’t know if my parents were always like that, but our four older siblings, who were all quite a bit older than my twin and I (and all out on their own before we were even born or shortly after) probably trained them in, or more like it, wore them out for us.

As a parent myself now, I try to find a balance between playing with my children, giving them play or craft ideas, supporting them in structured outside activities, and just plain supporting the idea of “free play” and play because of boredom. Balance is the key.

Of course, we don’t want our children spending a lot of time, if any, depending on their age, by themselves unsupervised either. Unsupervised time and lack of attention can lead to children’s involvement in inappropriate and unhealthy activities as well.

So as summer vacation is progressing right along, it’s OK if we hear those words of proclamation, “I’m bored.”

Even though it may not seem like it at the time, it can be music to the ears.

It may even be a proclamation, whether self-announced or not, that they are ready for the school year to begin and for another new journey of learning.

There is also joy in finding our children in their rooms or outside playing with some gadgets or toys that they forgot they ever had.

There is even further joy when we discover our children, siblings, playing together. Imagine that.

As the summer rolls along, enjoy time with your children, but don’t forget that their moments of boredom are really OK too.

“Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.”

– Roger Lewin