Right now, I can hear the laughter (and battle cries) of my two older boys as they jump on the trampoline outside. We ordered the extra-large one with a net surrounding it when it became obvious that they needed a way to release all that endless energy. I know a lot of parents put their boys into sports for this reason, but my sons are not very competitive by nature and have never enjoyed team sports. I’m fine with that; they have other interests. I support developing their interests and talents whenever possible, but I find value in something that kids seem to be getting less and less of: downtime.
I remember having lots of downtime as a child. It allowed me to use my creativity and foster my imagination. Summertime, in particular, was filled with downtime, and in turn, priceless memories. Today it seems as though many parents are opposed to allowing their children to be bored. We fear that our kids might be missing out on something or won’t measure up to their peers.
There is no question that our world is competitive, and we all want to prepare our children to become adults, but shouldn’t we let them be kids first? If we allow our children the time, is it possible for them to discover interests and passions on their own?
Clinical psychologist Paula Bloom told CNN:
“Parents need to teach their kids to balance human doing with human being.” Adding, “Kids need to know they’re not defined by what they do. They need time to play, experiment, rest and figure out who they are.”
As a child, I spent an inordinate amount of time in my room. It was there that I would write in my journals, sing, and read. I discovered a love of poetry and began writing my own. I also decided I wanted to take some guitar lessons so I could play while I sang. Now, I get to watch my boys discover what they love to do. One of my sons is a “master builder” with his LEGO; his creations never cease to amaze me. My oldest has a love for science, technology, and literature. He loves to enlighten his scientifically-challenged mother about everything he is learning.
My boys also love to wrestle and play board games. Some of our favorite times as a family involve just being home together with nothing scheduled at all. Sometimes, like most mothers, I wonder whether I am doing enough. Maybe my child would be a musical prodigy if only I had made him take those piano lessons. Then I remember the pressure I felt about taking piano lessons growing up and how much happier I was to play my guitar.
It all comes back to balance. I remember my mother telling me, “You need to pick something to do. It can be your decision but choose an activity.” I appreciated that she allowed me to make the choice while also not insisting I try everything and over-schedule myself. I am trying to adopt this method for my boys. I want them to experience new things and support whatever activity most interests them, and then I want them to be able to come home and rest.
Being busy at all times does not necessarily equal happiness and success. Every family is different and must do what works best for them. I plan on continuing this laid-back approach to parenting that is working for us — filled with plenty of downtime (and yes, even boredom) for our children.