I hope to set you free from one of the myths of mothering – it is not your responsibility as a mother to entertain your child! So… now you are free from that burden. Not to say that there aren’t times when it is fun to sing loudly with silly faces and make your child laugh. (remember, girls?) But that should be FUN, and only done when you are so moved. You are not duty bound to make sure that every waking moment of your child’s life is fun or entertaining!
My father taught high school biology for 40 years and for several years was a naturalist in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On days off, our family would pile in the car and drive through the park or on the Blue Ridge Parkway looking for the flora and fauna of the Smoky Mountains. This was before in-car-videos, cassette- tape players, and even the radio was ineffective because there were not radio signals on most of those remote roads. We were a captive audience. We would drive until Dad spotted a specimen, and then he would stop the car and we would wait until the light was just right for a picture.
I admit there were times I was bored. I know I complained. But eventually something began to happen. I started to see the world around me through my father’s eyes! I began to notice bee balm and orange fringed orchids blooming by the roadside. I started to spot butterflies in damp puddles left by rain, or the fiddle heads of unfolding ferns. I was no longer bored! The world around me began to unfold as an infinite source of wonder and beauty. My father’s awe of God’s creation gradually became my own and is now the inspiration for my art work.
My father was not concerned about whether or not my brothers and I were having “fun”. He wanted to share with us something that he enjoyed and it was up to us to “take it or leave it”. I hate to think what would have happened if my parents had given in to my complaints and not exposed me to the wonders of my favorite place on earth – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
As mothers we are bound the hear those whiny words, “Mommy, I’m bored.” At that moment we must be strong and not get sucked into thinking it is our fault and we must “fix it” so our child is happy again. It is our children’s choice to be bored – it is also their choice to be happy. These are feelings humans have and they are based on our reactions to circumstances more than the circumstances themselves. One quick remedy to boredom is a job – something to do. When our children said they were bored, their dad gave them a job to do. It didn’t take long for them to figure out that they either needed not to tell us they were bored, or better yet, figure out something they wanted to do. It was not our responsibility as parents to find something that they wanted to do.
James Bryan Smith in his book The Good and Beautiful God says that boredom is a symptom and the solution is being present where you are. I love that! I found that to be true on trips with my parents as a little girl. Taking in the beauty around me was engaging. It also began a life long habit of looking at plant and animal life. (to this day, my family and friends do not like to ride with me when I am driving because I like to look around me!)
Some people become people watchers, some are music lovers, there are so many ways to be present where we are. This is an important skill to impart to our children. One of our children would count things. Ceiling tiles in church, panes in windows, rows of columns, she would occupy herself counting things which may have led to her proficiency in math. Our world is full of fascinating people, places and things. Helping our children appreciate the world around them will be a gift they can enjoy throughout their lives.