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Dear Kids, It’s Not My Job to Entertain You This Summer

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

Three days into summer vacation and my kids are already bored. Apparently 42.8% of one week is all it takes to eat all the “good” food, catch up on the DVR, and tire of video games.

Did my kids think I had some kind of not bummer summer in the works? Did they assume daily fun activities were a given? If so, they picked the wrong mom. I didn’t buy season passes to anywhere or sign them up for day camps. I didn’t start a “Summer fun!” Pinterest board with the best of intentions. And I didn’t do these things for one simple reason: just because my kids are on vacation, doesn’t mean that I am.

I can understand how this might be a little confusing for my kids. As a work-at-home parent, I’m home much like they are. But unlike them, I have real work to do here. And while I’d love nothing more than to play the summer away, I’m not about to trade a steady paycheck for seasonal volunteer work as their social director.

I’m of the belief that the business of busyness is on them this summer. At 8 and 13 years old they can do things — fun things, creative things, and inspired things — with minimal supervision. They have access to the Internet, library, the park next door, and their grandparents’ pool. They have toys and games they never play, sporting equipment, and craft supplies. They can earn money walking the neighbor’s dog or organizing a much-needed yard sale. If none of these ideas float their summer boats, they’re free to dream up about a million others that could. My kids have the opportunity to make their summer anything they want it to be, whether it’s a season of imagination or boredom is entirely up to them.

With 63 days of vacation left to go (but who’s counting), my kids don’t get to make their boredom my problem. With more pressing concerns than their ceaseless entertainment, I’m shaking off every last bit of mom guilt associated with a summer unplanned.

They warned of the possibility of death by boredom, but I’m willing to take my chances. I know all about boredom, real boredom, the kind that comes from being an only child with nothing more than a yellow highlighter and continuous form printer paper at your parents’ CPA office while they scrutinize every detail of their 1985 Federal tax return. The boredom that comes from waiting inside a stinky salon for hours while your mom gets manicured, colored, and permed something proper. In the absence of cell phones, tablets, and handheld gaming devices, the tedious and often terrible practice of boredom taught me some valuable things. Like how to just be (and be nice about it). How to be patient and humble and patient some more. How to think, create, and imagine with limited resources. And perhaps most importantly, how boredom can lead our interests beyond the obvious.

So what will kindle a creative spark in my kids? Will it be music, art, dancing, or photography? Will it be service, sports, coding, or something yet to be discovered? Maybe this is their summer to find out.

If necessity is the mother of invention, perhaps monotony is the father of purpose. While there’s nothing revolutionary about a liberated summer, the self-discovery that comes from one actually could be.

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