Today we had a chronic case of the "mom, I'm so bored" syndrome that signifies midsummer. Although the kids have not been out of school a month yet. Still, Harrison was so bored and restless this afternoon. I signed him up to volunteer at vacation bible school. Thought that would keep him occupied this week. Nope. That just gets him up earlier so he has more time to complain about how bored he is all day. After VBS, we stopped by 7-11 to get our free Slurpees and it all went downhill from there. He wanted to "do something" and "go somewhere" but would not give me any suggestions. He said he wanted a friend over and then said he didn't. It was a perfect example of how our kids expect us to orchestrate their every moment. And of how, when you are one of four siblings, and none of those other siblings are around, you don't know what to do with yourself!
Our four kids have been scattered in different directions all summer. Arlie in Spokane, Hannah in California, Hayley working and on her own schedule now that she's graduated. Even Harrison was gone for a weekend over the 4th. So, it's been rare this past week or so to have more than two of them in the same place at the same time. There is no "routine" or schedule to base our days and hours on, so everyone is a little lost. It's all well and good when there's something fun going on, but when it's idle time....well, that's another story.
As Harrison flopped on the couch and bounced around from watching a movie, to being on Facebook, to playing the guitar, he repeatedly shot down all of my suggestions of things to do. I offered up a trip to the mall, a bike ride, a walk, baking something, making playdough, painting, making a video......nothing. Finally, after posting on Facebook, my plea was answered by another kid who invited him over. And all was well. Now, he's brought his friend over to our house, they've built a fire, and are having a grand old time. Why was this so difficult? Why did it take from noon to 5 p.m. to figure out "what to do"?
I don't want to get on my soapbox, but what the hell? When I was his age, I spent every waking minute making the most of my summer. Granted we didn't have Facebook, the internet, cell phones and other distractions, but we had FUN. Mornings were spent getting together with friends and making an elaborate plan for the day. We went exploring, played games involving scores of kids, had spontaneous water fights, and ended every night playing Kick the Can in the street. We would lay in the street, one kid after another, lined up like cars, and let my younger brother jump over us on his bike! I mean, what were we thinking? What if that back tire came down on one of our stomachs? As our parents would say "well, that'll teach you to do something stupid like that!"
I had high hopes that this summer would be different. The last day of school a bunch of neighborhood boys got into a project - building a fort. They gathered tools, scrap wood and spent two entire days working and arguing over plans, hammering nails, and trying to make the "best fort ever". Well, it all fell apart when someone tore down their work in the night and they couldn't agree on how to fix it. So much for that adventure!
One thing I know for sure - when I was young, my parents didn't know where we were half the time, and that was just fine on all sides. We knew how and when to get home if we wanted to eat, or needed to be home for dinner. And our parents knew they could probably just yell for us and we'd be within hearing distance. And if not? A quick phone call to another parent and THEY could yell for us. The point is, we were outside most of the day and when we were inside, we were usually only there long enough to eat lunch or dinner and head back out. I don't remember asking my mom what I could/should do. I'm certain I uttered the "I'm bored" more than a few times, but I really don't remember her rearranging her schedule to provide entertainment for the kids. Plus, if you were bored enough, you might get an extra chore to do. And who wanted that?
Sometimes it just feels really draining to have to orchestrate every minute of our kids' lives. So, I don't. And then.....when left to their own devices, they will inevitably choose one of these activities: Facebook, cell phone, internet, watching TV. Sad, huh? They don't get bored enough to spend time finding things to do. Or things to get in trouble for. Or perhaps something that'll "take an eye out". There's just no adventure anymore. I mean, what's summer without playing "Charlie's Angels" with the neighborhood kids, using a hose nozzle as a "gun" and carting the wounded out on the toy box lid? Ok, I'm dating myself, but you get my point. My twelve year old boy should be outside, always slightly sunburned, with skinned knees, and end each day so dirty I have to force him into the shower. Instead he remains neat as a pin, nary a hair on his Justin Bieber'd head disturbed and I can't remember the last time he needed a Band-Aid for any battle wound.
I did finally succumb to his pleas of boredom today and when he asked if he could pop the balloons from a recent party, I let him hold a lighter to them until they popped. Yeah, a lighter. Fire. IN the house. Cool.