Why do we as parents feel the need to keep our children engaged and entertained every minute they are awake?
I mean, I get it. A bored kid is oftentimes more of a headache to us than the boredom itself is to them. When my kids are bored, I’m their go-to to supply them with entertainment, even if that entertainment comes in the way of watching me lose my s*** because I’ve listened to “but moooo-OOOOm, we’re so bored!” more times than Trump has tweeted the words “fake news”.
Seriously. They hate nothing more than when my husband or myself tell them to shut off the electronics and come downstairs. Why? Because downstairs means they have to make their own fun. They can’t just plug-in and let their awesome Uncles Mojang and Pop Cap keep them entertained. Downstairs means they have to go into their rooms and play with real toys, create their own zombie apocalypse in diecast cars, army men, and Lego blocks. Downstairs means they have to use critical and imaginative thinking to stimulate themselves. Downstairs means they have to endure moments of silence and disconnect.
And you know what?
It’s good for them.
As much as it drives me insane, boredom in moderation is good for kids. Yours, mine, and even Susie-perfect-mom-down-the-street-with-her-24-hour-schedules’. Unstructured free time does wonderful things for kids, and it even helps us as parents grow in the virtues of patience and fortitude–because nothing gives me fortitude like staring four “so-bored-we’re-going-to-die” children in the face and saying “no” to the electronics. The temptation to give myself a moment of peace and let them plug-in is sometimes palpable.
And you know what else? My children aren’t going to starve if I don’t make their meals colorful and shaped like animals or cartoon characters or their pet goldfish.
I’m serious, y’all.
We’ve dealt with our fair share of picky eaters. We’ve dealt with that fun stage when the kid doesn’t want to eat anything and you’re 90% sure they’re going to starve to death and you’re desperate enough to julienne, batonnet, brunoise, and paysanne every ounce of their food and make it look like The Last Supper on a kid plate if it’ll get them to eat. But you know what? I don’t owe it to my kid to do stuff like this. It’s not my job to make every moment of every day fun fun fun! Because that’s not life. If they want pancakes shaped like baseballs or teddy bears when they grow up, they can go to Denny’s and order off the kid’s menu.
This isn’t a personal attack on any parents to who do this, who go that extra mile to do something fun for their kids, but it’s not me. On a personal level, food is food and everything in their life isn’t going to be handed to them diced up and decorated. The light company could send our bills on neon pink cardstock complete with flourishes and dancing lightbulb cartoons, but I’ll still wince every time I pay it. Moses could have come down the mountain with two elaborately decorated tri-fold display boards that would put a 3rd grade science fair presentation to shame, and it wouldn’t have made the 10 Commandments any easier to follow, and the same with Jesus and His commandments.
“Yo, would it be easier for you guys to clothe the naked and feed the hungry and love your neighbor if I made it into a rap song with a sick music video?” — Things Jesus Never Said.
Kids, my kids especially, need the mundane, tedious parts of life. They need monotony and blandness. They need realistic expectations, because I’m not going to wait until they turn 18 to pull off the rose-colored glasses and push them headlong into “real life” while simultaneously insulting their general lack of knowing how to handle “real life” because I didn’t want to ruin their childhood.
And honestly, I want them to know the value of, and to be appreciative of, silence. I don’t want them to be afraid of silence like I am. I don’t want them to be afraid to just… be at times. I want them to know stillness and calm, and so I have to gave this to them now, as children, so that one day they’ll be self-disciplined enough to seek it for themselves.