I've probably written this theme into the ground this week, but this is a place for me to process my thoughts along our educational journey, and boredom is what we're learning about.
I'm learning to be comfortable with letting my kids get bored.
Way back before I had kids, my good friend had a couple, and she earned a little pocked money by babysitting a couple more. She said that the kids she watched were exhausting to be around all day not because they were bad kids--they weren't--but because they were used to having their every moment planned and they had no idea how to entertain themselves. My friend told me that she cultivated boredom in her kids so that they would learn how to make good choices and know how to use the time God gives us all.
I've always remembered that bit of good advice.
But it hasn't always been easy to follow. When the kids say, "Mom, I'm bored!" I always answer that I have a chore that needs to be done, and the kids scatter like the wind and find something to do, but I wonder if I'm doing a disservice because we aren't signed up for the library reading program, swimming lessons, summer craft camp, VBS, or enrichment classes. I kind of wonder if I'm a bad mom when my kids are bored. Shouldn't I be giving them more of my time?
Last night I was talking to a fellow mom at a church social. This mom LOVES her kids. This mom cares about motherhood. This mom is a good mom. Her kids are kids I'm glad mine have as friends. We seek their company and are better for it. I admire her in many, many ways.
Last night she said, "I feel as if this summer is the busiest season of my life. It's my own fault. I'm running here, running there, taking the kids out and about, trying to keep them from getting bored."
Something in me suddenly felt so thankful for our own boring summer, and I answered gently, "I intentionally let the kids get bored so that they know how to solve the problem of their own boredom."
"But my kids fight when they're bored . . . " she said, trailing off as she answered the call of her 2 year old and I answered mine.
We let the conversation drop, but I turned away grateful that my kids are their own best friends. Yes, E14 took M12's favorite jeans without permission on Monday, and S12 said some spiteful things to H4 yesterday. Yes, A7 and H4 sometimes hide from I2 so that they can play a game in peace, and he comes to me in tears after being abandoned by his favorite people in the world. Yes J10 sometimes sighs and says, "I don't want to play with my sisters anymore!" Yes, sometimes I send the kids to their rooms because the bickering is making my head spin off, but that is truly only a small percentage of the time. For the most part they are absolutely best friends.
A7 and H4 play for hours with I2--games of make believe adventure. J10 has been I2's best friend this week; she's been playing some made up version of Clue. It is hilarious to hear him call out, "Colonel Mustard, yibrary, bobby pin!" (we lost the lead pipe, so we use a bobby pin.) M12 does S12's and J10's hair. S12 and J10 play Barbies. E14 does makeovers on all of her sisters. They take turns painting each other's nails.
When they need time apart from one another they develop talents and skills.
E14 is clearing brush along our little creek so that they can follow the creek from the street in front of our house all the way down to the street behind our house. It's not far, but it feels like an adventure because the woods and brush are so thick. Apparently there's also a small clearing along the way in which she's hoping to build a tree house. Daddy bought her some lumber and has given her permission to use his tools.
M12 sits at the piano for hours at a time. She's really learning to play--so much so that she's accompanying the hymn singing for the other girls in the church youth group. She also sewed a dress for H4. She's working on a dress for A7.
S12 made me a cake on Wednesday when she was bored. She'd never made a cake by herself before. It's delicious, and she's so proud of herself. She's also learned to make quesadillas for a crowd and has made piles of sandwiches for us all. She's service-minded, so when she's bored she looks for ways to help; yesterday I found her voluntarily cleaning up dog-poop in the yard. She's my hero right now.
J10 came to me with a recipe for muffins she found in a magazine. Once she helped me tidy up the kitchen she had free reign there for over an hour. The muffins are fabulous! Cinnamon-nut. Even the non-nut-eaters in the family are eating them eagerly. And last night J10 learned how to make popcorn on the stove--she popped 3 batches for us to take to the social.
A7 picks up her scriptures when she's bored. She's reads intensely--so much so that I2 picked up a set of scriptures he found lying on a table, marched into the kitchen and announced, "I read dese myself!" Then he marched out to the couch, plunked himself down next to A7, opened the scriptures at random, and proceeded to stare intently at the pages. A7 is influencing our family for good.
The little guys play, draw, color, wheedle big people into reading stories to them, and soak up everything they can. H4 has learned to hula hoop. I2 has learned how to wash his own hands--he even turns off the water when he's done!
I've struggled this summer with being so "out of it" with this pregnancy. I've felt that I've done my family a disservice by lying on the couch and failing to give them a summer full of care free memories of spending long hours in the sun. I've wept more than once with fear that my pregnancy and a new baby are not blessings but curses I've brought on my kids' heads. I've feared that I'm just not competent enough.
I keep writing and writing about my fears and sense of failure. I keep writing and writing about how great I think my kids are . . . not to boast, but to increase my own awareness. I write to help me see more clearly. I can see better that I am not failing them; if anything my fatigue and illness have been a gift to them. They are free to be bored. They are free to solve their own problems. They are free to grow in ways that they might not if I were on top of my game and managing our every moment.
I am so thankful for that brief conversation I had with my friend last night. She's a great mom, and her kids are great kids. I'm glad we're friends. Though I'd already been working hard to process the idea, she helped open my eyes to the blessings of boredom.