Most children (and parents) undergo a degree of decompression as they leave the hectic school year behind and enter the realm of those golden months of summer. Early mornings, busy schedules, and revolving deadlines are traded in for a more relaxed pace of life and significantly more free time. This is what we’ve all been waiting for. That is – until our sweet little cherubs, who have anticipated this emancipation for months, utter those two dreaded words. “I’m bored.”
Our children know the drill. We typically don’t watch much TV during the week, and they are in the habit of spending their abundant free time reading, creating, getting muddy in the creek, and designing and implementing battle plans upon each other and their friends. But something magical (hmmm) has happened in the past few weeks. As our outside commitments and internal schooling expectations have come to a creeping pace, a shift has occurred. My children, who have the skills, raw materials, and experience in creating their own adventures, seem to have regressed.
This morning, as I was basking in the luxury of enjoying a cup of coffee and time alone on our porch, I became a bit sentimental. Having married a man with two young children, then eventually adding three more to the crowd, I’ve had little people in my life for the past eighteen years. Our entire married life has been one of parenting. For the first time, we don’t have babies. We don’t have teenage drivers. Our big kids are growing into delightful adults and my youngest is nine. Old enough to sleep beyond 6:30 in the morning. Finally. I don’t have to rise before dawn to have time alone. We’re in a sweet window of family life. The summer has come. Relief from schedule. Fun outings planned and great books to be read as a family in the upcoming weeks. As I was reflecting on how grateful I am for this delight-filled season, my not-so-little, blue-eyed baby boy entered the scene. It was 9am. He paused, then unapologetically proclaimed, “I’m bored.”
As fate (or more likely Providence) would have it, my morning reading became immediately relevant:
“You can be bored by virtually anything if you put your mind to it, or choose not to. You can yawn your way through Don Giovanni or a trip to the Grand Canyon or an afternoon with your dearest friend or a sunset. There are doubtless those who nodded off at the coronation of Napoleon or the trial of Joan of Arc or when Shakespeare appeared at the Globe in Hamlet or Lincoln delivered himself of a few remarks at Gettysburg. The odds are that the Sermon on the Mount had more than a few of the congregation twitchy and glassy-eyed. To be bored is to turn down cold whatever life happens to be offering you at the moment.” Frederick Buechner
Isn’t that the truth? As adults, we often live our lives in much the same way. We’re bored. Only we’re too sophisticated to use the word, so we submit to the mindset and deny the reality. We spend our days longing for (or regretting) our past. Or we live in a state of waiting for (or fearing) the future. We too miss the beauty that each moment of the day has to offer. Boredom provides its own sense of security. It doesn’t require of me. It’s familiar. It’s easy. I trade in my books (or art, or music, or meandering walks) for the TV. I give concentrated chunks of time to returning email (or whatever else we find to do on the computer), yet rarely build that kind of time in my day to play with my children or talk with my husband. I keep my schedule full of good things. I miss the best things.
So maybe, just maybe, our children become bored because they’ve (gasp) learned it from us. Our busy schedules and addictions to iPhones provide a constant stream of stimulation from the outside world. Rather than experiencing the full range of vibrancy that life has to offer, we settle for a counterfeit. We live vicariously through the computer screen or favorite TV shows. We become obsessive about work, exercise, or (fill in the blank). Those aren’t implicitly bad things. That is, unless they soak up my time and energy, preventing me from growing, creating, and exploring. From becoming all that I was created to be. From tasting the richness of this hour and experiencing that yes, it is good.
As I encourage my children to be grateful for and bask in whatever each day, even each moment, has to offer, I hope to do so myself. I want to live life wide-eyed. To view my everyday (and every moment) with a sense of anticipation. Yet to do so requires discipline to be still. The courage to hope for more. And the willingness to be proactive in pursuing that which brings me joy.
So as you launch into the heart of the summer, my hope for you is the same. That you find time to be still. That you discover (or remember) whatever it is that brings you joy. That you wake up in the morning with the wonder of a child. Read a great book. Take a class. Take a walk. Try something new. Notice the miracles – the weaving spiders, the rain-dappled rooftops, the clever, hurting, resilient, thoughtful, playful image bearers who are present in your everyday. Live fully in your story. It’s epic.
Invite your children to join you on the adventure. And you may stumble upon good fortune when in turn, they ask the same of you.
Happy summer, friends.