Welcome to the unofficial start of summer.
Kids are pouring out of schools, looking forward to open calendars full of things like late bedtimes and on-demand fun. Parents, on the other hand, are warily eyeing these long weeks ahead.
I am one of those parents.
Memorial Day marks the opening of pools and the shuttering of any scrap of daylight-free time for us grown-ups. As a full-time working parent, these last few months have been a frenzied search for alternative childcare options and activities to do during the school-free break ahead.
For some families, the calendar outlining kid coverage for the next three months looks like a congested, color-coated jumble of numbers and letters outlining who needs to be where and when, and who will be the parent or guardian-for-hire squiring them to the various activities. For others, summer vacation is a stay-at-home free-for-all, where the plan is there isn’t a lot planned.
This summer, the loose plan for my kids includes a few camps and fun classes sprinkled throughout the break, but I also believe they are at the perfect ages to explore boredom now and again.
The idea was sparked by an opinion piece I read last winter in the New York Times advocating for parents to let their children be bored again. It says that boredom “teaches us that life isn’t a parade of amusements. More important, it spawns creativity and self-sufficiency.”
At 9 and 7 years old, Declan and Mara are mature enough to read independently, create a game or craft on their own. And with a swing set playhouse in the fenced-in backyard, they can get outside and let the sun wear them out for a spell.
I’m still prepared to hear the phrase “I’m bored” (even if I’m not looking forward to it). These two words are enough to send a seismic wave of dread-tinged frustration to any parent within earshot.
For me, it’s a multi-layered response that runs the emotional gamut. It usually starts with indignation that whatever wares I have offered as a diversion have been found lacking. Eventually, it morphs into a brief play at obsequiousness where I showcase other exciting amusements I have on tap. If, after that, I’m still rebuffed, my response peters out to dour resignation that their boredom will now result in destructive invention or, worse, constant nagging for something to do.
There are days when I’m well rested and brimming with positive energy and happy to face the challenge: “You’re bored, huh? Well, that room of yours needs cleaning. And I’m sure all of those toys you are over playing with could find a new home.”
But, of course, on days like this, the kids wouldn’t dare let out the faintest whisper of boredom. No, they save that verbal bomb when I’m sleep-deprived, mentally preoccupied and counting the hours until I can crawl back into bed to give tomorrow a better shot at success.
Summer vacation is long. Some would argue too long (or maybe that’s just me and my group of parent friends). But I’m looking forward to using this open-ended leisure time to try out the character-building attributes of being bored, and I think this experiment will be anything but boring.
Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM’s “Big Party Show” in Omaha is a mom to two children living in Chicago. She writes weekly for Momaha.com.