Mom, I have a boat! And when I use my imagination it's a real boat!
My heart stopped. Stopped because he's so stinkin' beautiful, with his brilliant boy imagination, splashing around our pool at 9:56 in the morning! My heart stopped as I watched his boy body strain under the pressure of paddling. Then up came his "spear" and he slayed the eels that swarmed 'round his boat. His face contorted and I knew it was all real.
My heart stopped, because I had committed to not give in when they begged for a TV show after breakfast. I didn't crumble when they cried for my intercession. I didn't rob them of their own brilliance by saying Yes to a trip to Target - even though they wanted to spend their own money.
Boredom Breeds Brilliance.
I remember the forts of my youth, and the friends who met me deep within their leafy rooms. Some friends were real, others imaginary. And I'd ride my pink bike with the white basket to Kerry's house three blocks away. I don't have one memory with her inside one of our homes until we were 12 and started watching her mother's soap operas. Life was lived outside in our youth, with change in our pockets in case we came across the jingling song of an ice-cream truck.
Then there was the "dump" down the street, where our local school discarded old desks, pieces of machinery, and the deflated red rubber balls I played handball with over the course of the previous school year. Michael and I would squeeze through the chain linked fence and gather what we could for our summertime inventions. We'd throw cardboard boxes over the fence before squeezing back through and carrying our loot home to his house or mine.
It was a successful day, a memorable day, the day we made our first "Crap-Mobile." Using blue painting tape and silver duct tape, yellow masking tape and clear scotch tape, we strapped boxes to our skateboards, decorated them with markers, and pushed one another down the middle of the street.
But the day I count even more a success, even more memorable, was the day my boys pushed through the discomfort of their boredom and constructed their own cardboard fun.
When we let our children work through
the discomfort of not being entertained,
they have a shot at brilliance.
When we let them explore
an ordinary card board box,
they begin thinking outside of the box -
And the ordinary becomes extraordinary!
Children need to be outdoors. They need time to be bored so that they will have to figure out how to occupy their time creatively... They need to be around books and have lots and lots of imaginative stories read to them and then have time to pretend the stories.
Here w are on the other side of childhood, trying to orchestrate our children's turn at this magical season. But they don't need us to fill their time with activities and entertainment, what they need is a safe place to build a fort, dream dreams, and become brilliant one long summer day at a time. They do not need us to act the director of their play, simply build them a stage, shout action and offer our applause as the street lamps turn on and the fireflies come out.
Our generation lived outside in our youth, but now we fill our own kids' summers with one camp after another, short breaks for vacations, then back again to camp. We've taken the oxygen out of our children's atmosphere, by planning away each morning, noon and night. And when a moment is unplanned, on go the TV and video screens.
Boredom Breeds Brilliance.
Our children need quiet spaces where minds must become creative to conjure fun. Quiet spaces, bored spaces, without the flicker of video screens, or the hurried pace of camp activities. Long, uncomfortable hours give way to a duel between Peter Pan and Captain Hook. And when their Dad comes home, they take him on a treasure hunt and dig up the chest they'd hid earlier that day... with a line of ants leading the way to their bubble gum booty.
I dare you to let them be bored this summer. I double dog dare you!