It’s a beautiful Saturday morning, although it’s too hot, for my taste, but beautiful, nonetheless. I love the big fluffy clouds of summer, and the gorgeous blue sky. I enjoy coffee, with lots of cream in it (or creamer with a little coffee in it). I love sleeping in and waking up slowly and staying in my pajamas… let’s face it, I don’t have to hold my tummy in when I’m in pajamas. Saturday is a day to just relax and enjoy. I have strived to keep Saturday activity-free for years. Not that it always works out, but I just covet that day of rest. Especially in the morning, because I am so not a morning person, do I love my day of rest.
Enter the end of a summer season, and two young ladies who sometimes eed a little direction.
“What are we doing today?”
Those dreaded words. In my head, my answer sounds something like nothing. I don’t want to do anything. Really, I just want to lounge around and not get out of my pajamas. I’m thinking, though, that this is not really an acceptable answer, so I suggest we go to the pool. Apparently, this is not an acceptable answer, either. Scowling faces, frowns, eyebrows furrowed as if to suggest that I’ve just declared that we should clean out our closets and then do yard work.
I understand something about parenting in my ripe old age, and it is this: I am not doing anybody any favors by always having the right answers, or by always having the popular plan. I’ve read plenty of articles about how important it is to keep your kids busy so they stay out of trouble, off the internet, and away from drugs and alcohol. I think, though, in a way, we are creating a generation of children that need to have activities and days all planned and scripted out for them, so they don’t have meltdowns, and throw tantrums.
I think it is important to let kids be bored. There. I’ve said it. I was bored when I was growing up, too. I truly believe that sometimes it’s good for our children to know that they need to take some ownership for entertaining themselves when mom and dad don’t have events planned out for every day of the year. It is especially important for kids to grasp this concept before the summer months seem like an endless dream of laziness and TV watching, internet surfing, and Cheetos eating. Those days should be treats, not the norm.
Granted, it is the middle of August, and it really has been too hot to do much. On this particular day, however, I was not so gracious.
“I am not a party planner, guys, nor are you currently on board a cruise ship, so I am not a cruise director, either!! I can tell you all the things you are not going to do today, and they are as follows: you are not going to be on the computer, or Minecraft, or animal jam. You are not going to be watching TV all day. You are not going to eat just snacks all day. And, finally, you are not going to tell me you have nothing to do because if you tell me you have nothing to do, I will give you a list of all the things that need to be done in this house, and you will be very sad.”
Not one of the greatest mom moments of my career, but the end result was effective. I didn’t hear any whining, and the kids all remembered that they knew how to read, how to play board games, how to build with legos, and how to ride their bikes. I am lucky now, too, that they are old enough to go to the pool without me, and they can walk or ride their bikes there.
Now, I am not trying to suggest that kids should have freedom to do whatever they want, nor am I suggesting that chores are a punishment. I am suggesting that kids be given a reasonable amount of unstructured time with appropriate boundaries to learn how to deal with being bored, and how to entertain themselves. We started with quiet time as my babies gave up napping. I still needed my nap, so they were taught to stay in their rooms, quietly, until I came to get them. This time morphed into alone time, and eventually as the youngest became old enough to listen to her older sister, it became date-day (or night) so my spouse and I could invest in our marriage. It doesn’t happen overnight, but with practice and patience, quiet time begins to illustrate to your kiddos that they are capable of self control, impulse control, and being alone and in charge of that time and space. Eventually, as they get older, most kids will start to figure out that alone/quiet time is necessary and important for their mental health.
The benefits of this, I believe, are far reaching. Kids are learning to be responsible, they are being inventive, they are learning that immediate gratification is not a good thing. Think about how easily, and how quickly our children get things- anything these days! They can totally get a meal cooked under three minutes, they can watch whatever they want because of on demand, or DVRs. Kids don’t have to wait for hardly anything. So, teaching them things like waiting, self control, and being quiet early on leads to better impulse control as these same children get older (just imagine your child as a teen learning to drive - impulse control is important). It’s never too early to start training!
Let alone all the benefits that your kiddos will reap for experiencing and learning to love quiet time, imagine the amazing, soul soothing, heart calming moments that YOU will benefit from by enjoying a little alone time for yourself. And, you so deserve that, Mama. You really do. So, keep calm, and parent on… after you get a nap, of course.