Thursday, July 18, 2013

Let them be bored...

I was sure someone would write that in the comments of my recent post, but nobody did. Someone said I was doing a great job at raising snob kids, though. I figured I might need to explain myself a bit better. I already shared this great article on boredom by Sandra Dodd, but let me copy an excerpt here today.

Another homeschooling mom once wrote, "It's a valuable lesson to learn to deal with boredom, just like all other emotions."

Until I read that, I hadn’t ever thought of boredom as an emotion. I liked the idea. When a child comes to me seeking advice on how to deal with any emotional state, I'm flattered and glad for the opportunity. 

Traditionally in this culture boredom is seen as a state of sin. "I’m bored" is met by unthinking parents with, "Then mop the kitchen," or "You have a thousand dollars’ worth of toys, you can’t be bored," or "Boredom’s good for you." I believe the VERY common habit of belittling children who use the word "bored" should be rethought (or "thought," since it seems many parents have never considered it carefully but just repeat what their parents said to them). 

If a child came and said she was heartbroken would you tell her she was a brat and should clean the garage? If a child came and said he was angry enough to hit would you say, "Then sit down and read a book whether you want to or not"? Wouldn’t you try to help them? It's nonsensical to me that some parents shame their children for saying they are at a loss about what to do next.
The most to be accomplished from punishing or sending bored kids away is that the kids will learn not to go to that parent for advice and ideas. 

Sometimes the real message behind "I'm bored" is "I'm little and feeling agitated and vaguely unhappy and I don't know what I can do to get over this uncomfortable feeling. What would you do if you were my age, in this house, on a day like this?" 

I think that deserves a helpful, respectful response. 

I had the privilege to feel bored when we lived in Costa Rica. It had been a very long time since I had time to be bored and it felt very uncomfortable. I wrote about it here. This experience has given me even more compassion for my kids' feeling of boredom. I know it is quite common to say that boredom leads to more creativity, but I think we sometimes confuse boredom with free time in this crazy overscheduled society...

My girls don't go to day camps and don't take classes (their choice) and they have free time all day long. Boredom happens and our situation is quite different than the situation of a child who goes to school, takes classes some nights a week and sometimes even on the weekends and for whom, boredom (alias free time) can lead to some creative outlets. 

And yes, coming back from a year and a half of traveling and camping in the wild, back to our small house with pretty much no yard is tough for all of us. It is temporary, but we struggle to adapt back to a more sedentary lifestyle. The weather has been crazy hot (with lots of rainy days) and activities like hiking and biking were not enjoyable for us in that context. 

We are reacquainting ourselves with home life and to growing girls with different needs. The twins are going through the 9 year change and it is an important shift.

This is a time of irritability and unsureness, of trepidation and aloneness. The young child’s experience of being part of the world vanishes and she now must learn to stand on her own. Emotionally, the child experiences a withdrawal into the self for perhaps the first time, a shutting out of the outside world (from a great article on the 9 year change called Paradise lost).

Homeschooling/unschooling requires constant adjustment depending on where the kids are and it really has been almost two years since we really were home in Quebec and we have all changed quite a bit since then.

We sure are finding joy in that daily life, in time spent with friends and family members, in a (first!) card at the local library (books in French! Woo-hoo!), in the proximity of a great national park with a cool lake near our home. But I wouldn't be honest if I said that it was all easy and great. JF works full time, trains for his upcoming ultra-marathon, takes care of our truck and trailer in order to sell them while I spend my days with the girls, care for the house, cook and plan activities. It is a very different life than the one we had on the road. I do miss it and it is a big adjustment, but I sure appreciate how lucky I am to be home with my family and to spend my days with my beautiful girls, as challenging as it may be some days. I know we all need to fully experience this transition period and own our uncomfortable emotions in order to be able to move on. 

I do not feel I have to *save* my girls from the discomfort of boredom, but I want them to feel like I care. I want them to know that it is OK to feel this way and to just sit through it, but I want to be there to hold their hand. I know they don't need suggestions or activities most time, but simply a loving response. And this mama is trying to be as loving and caring as possible while at the same time struggling with her own adaptation.

 **We went to visit Lucie and André, who used to rent our barn for their horses and had developped a beautiful relationship with Mathilde. We were quite happy to find out that their horses are now 10 minutes from where we live!


Francesca said...

couldn't agree more. did you read this?

Catherine said...

What a great article, Francesca! I love it! Thanks for sharing!

L'équipe J'OSE la vie ! said...

Chère Catherine,

merci pour ce partage.

Si tu avais envie (je sais, je sais... ;-) de le traduire, je le publierai en français.


Joanna said...

"And this mama is trying to be as loving and caring as possible while at the same time struggling with her own adaptation."
this on sentence says it all!
si jms tu as le goût de venir en abitibi avec les filles, tu es bienvenue :O)
y a tout pour pas s'emmerder ici :O)

Catherine said...

T'es gentille, Jo! Mais pour une fille qui déteste conduire, l'Abitibi, c'est loin en titi! Tu iras rencontrer Léandre?

Joanna said...

t'es drôle toi... pr une fille qui a été au yukon en char et est revenue, l'abitibi c'est comme aller au dépanneur chercher une pinte de "smoothie vert" :O)

ok, g compris qui de vous deux était le conducteur désigné pr ces milliers de km :O)

non je pense pas aller voir léandre. on est ds la vie de famille, le lac, et je travaille pas mal qd même alors on garde ca easy. sa place est assez loin de là où on est... et puis, je pense que j'aime l'idée qu'il reste un genre de "super man" non accessible...