Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I'm Bored! And other common complaints...

It's summer here in New England. It's around 90 degrees with pools and beaches on the brain. And it also signals another critical moment - the end of the school year. Today is the last day of school in our town and kids are screaming with delight. Summer? Bring it on!

I'm excited for the kids - for the swimming lessons they will take and the tennis they will play; the time with friends and hopefully some family vacation time. It's all great stuff. Until...

The words are uttered; first day home - after all the swimming, play time with friends, hour of "media time," dinner with grandparents, etc. "I'M BORED."

Really? You're bored? You mean, there are actually 10 minutes of the day that someone hasn't coordinated some perfect activity for you to do and you cannot find one thing to occupy yourself? And I won't even mention the billions of dollars we have spent on toys, books, sports equipment, you name it.

When I hear these words, I often find myself thinking back to my own childhood. I was an only child and, thus, pretty independent. I can recall playing, doing artwork, and reading. And there may have been a few occasions when I complained to my parents that I was bored. But in the end, they didn't jump up from what they were doing to come up with some amazing activity for me to do. Don't get me wrong - I was taken on awesome vacations, to amusement parks, played with friends, etc. But I had no grand expectations that someone would come up with some new and exciting activity for me if I had a spare hour in the day.

I have to admit that when my kids utter these words, I feel pressure - pressure to be some kind of Super Mom whose kids are always happy and smiling with lots of productive projects and fun time. But then I also feel like I shouldn't have to account for every moment of their days and that they need to become more independent and figure out what they can do on their own - and that doesn't involve some electronic gadget to keep them occupied. Have we done this to ourselves as parents with all of the playdates, sports and hip-hop classes? Are they wrong to expect that we will entertain them EVERY MOMENT of the day?

Our society has changed drastically in regards to parenting; in my opinion, some is for the good and some is not so good. When our parents were kids and even when we were kids, I feel as though we fit into the "fabric of the family." While there may have been extracurricular activities and sports, I feel like our parents really drove the schedule and how much we did or didn't do. These days, it seems quite the opposite - at least in our home. Everything surrounds the active and social lives of our kids.

Don't get me wrong...nothing is more important to me than my kids' wellness and happiness. But sometimes I feel that as a society, we have shifted our priorities so much that we may be doing our children a disservice by making them believe that everything is about them. What happens when they get out in the real world? Everyone talks about how the younger generation of twenty-somethings have a sense of entitlement...but can we blame them?

So what do we do? While our kids are young, we need to instill a sense of independence which sometimes means not catering to their every whim and making them understand that they have to figure it out on their own. I have a bad tendency to respond to their complaints with, "Go read a book!" or "If you don't have anything to do, I'm happy to give you something to do!" - which usually means a cleaning task. But I realize that I may need to help them start problem-solving by figuring out what their options are. They could select an art project, maybe a nature walk outside, or a toy that has been on a shelf for a while. By showing them how they can find other options, hopefully they may start to do this on their own in the future.

What do you think? How do you respond when your child says, "I'm bored!" I would love to hear your thoughts.