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I know schedules vary around the country, but my kids have been on summer break for three weeks now.
It did not, however, take them three weeks to manage to get bored. Want to know how long before I heard the dreaded Mantra of Summer? Want to guess when the first kid groaned from the other room, "Mom...I'm boooooored!"? Anyone?
Ninety minutes.An hour and a half. It was literally the same day that school got out. We won't even talk about how many times I've heard it since then.
I used to feel guilty. I'd get on Pinterest or I'd see the pictures my friends were posting on Facebook. I'd find tips for setting up your own Camp Mom for the summer, with activities for each day. I'd see Summer Bucket Lists and 101 Things Every Kid Should Do This Summer. And "letting them get bored" was never on there. These lists and activities were full of things to do that required time and prep work and usually money. I'd feel very bad that apparently every other mom in America was waking up each summer morning with a plan for the day, and a workstation already set up for each child, and sandwiches that looked like tiny penguins all ready for lunchtime.
I forgot that these are everyone's highlights.
We don't put pictures on Pinterest of the 67th peanut butter and jelly sandwich we slap together.
We don't post on Facebook about how we lay around all morning doing nothing.
We don't Instagram our kids' faces when they look bored out of their minds (actually, a few of my friends do and I love them for it.
But most of us wait for something a little more exciting. If we don't broadcast all those moments, it's easy to assume all the other moms are working overtime to ensure their kids have epic summers and we're the only ones who aren't.
It's an impossible standard. We're not cruise directors. Our job isn't to keep kids entertained all summer. I'd even argue that it's not good for them if we do keep them entertained all summer. They need to get bored.
I don't want my kids to grow up expecting everyone around them to constantly amuse them. I want them to make their own entertainment. When my kids get bored (after the complaining and the groaning), eventually they find things to do. They drag sheets out of the closet and make terribly unstable-looking forts to hide in. They grab ice and other strange ingredients out of my kitchen and conduct experiments. They dress up in costumes and climb trees and have puppet shows. Sometimes they do nothing at all - they lay on the grass outside thinking about how bored they are. That's fine, too.
The good news is that science backs this up. Psychologists say that allowing kids to get bored and figure out how to occupy themselves helps them to discover their own talents and interests.
I also find it interesting that the things kids eventually do come up with to keep busy are things I would never have thought of. A lot of times they're things you won't find on a Summer Bucket List or Camp Mom plan. They're things that kids think of, rather than things adults plan for kids.
Isn't that one of the perks of summer? To just do kid stuff rather than the things adults are always making you do?
I love taking my kids hiking or to the pool. They have a blast going to summer camps. I've shared activities here on BabyCenter that you can plan and do with kids on summer days. These all have their place. But there's also a time and place for doing nothing at all.
Images by Laura Falin
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.