Love Your Kids Enough to Give Them the Gift of Boredom {Please!}

I’m not a cry-er.

I chalk it up to using a lot of my Lifetime Tear Quota when my mom died the spring of ’72 and my beloved grandmother the summer after. Nothing hurts more than losing the ones you love most. Scraping my little girl’s heart something fierce, both left me with a decades-long oozing wound. Recovery comes slowly, and even if they fade to silver, scars remain. Though no one else can see them, you know they’re there.

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While I used to find not crying as some indicator of strength or emotional stability, I don’t so much these days. Sometimes I even find myself envying those for whom tears fall easily.

With age, my tears have gotten conspicuously louder and I’m more attuned to the sorts of things that manage to siphon these tiny, magical waters from my eyes.

Tears speak volumes if we’re listening.

Hallmark commercials are notorious for yanking heartstrings but it was a surprise when a granola bar commercial made me cry. Watch —

Nature Valley asked the same question of three generations, “What did you like to do for fun as a kid?”

It was all well and good when the over-40 set answered the question – blueberry picking, gardening, sledding, fishing, baseball, fort building, going door-to-door to find friends – and then it panned to a series of today’s kids…

It wasn’t just their answers that bothered me; it was their enthusiasm, the way their faces illuminated when they spoke.

Watching videos, gaming, texting — each child was passionate in answering. The admitted to spending hours…days…committed to their “play.”

It made me sad-sick.

I thought about my own childhood, what I did for fun–

Visits with my cousins in small-town, Georgia, where we’d play Kick the Can with neighbors until the moon was high in the sky, dirt bike rides without helmets where you may not have gotten burned but you could feel the heat of the motor, playing Mumblety Peg and shooting firecrackers and swimming in the Blue Hole–knives and matches for heaven’s sake. Amazingly, we never were injured.

Playing board games, building card houses and dining room forts, dress-up and make-believe, lemonade stands, water balloon fights, riding bikes and walking to 5 Points to buy a chocolate cone at Hodgson’s Drugs….

Reading behind the wing chair in our living room, sitting wrapped in a blanket by the heater vent, bowl of chocolate ice cream in one hand and Nancy Drew in the other.

Or that time it snowed then iced then snowed again, and no one had power for days, and we became prowling wolves, somehow still finding our people.

Boredom was a gift, a birthplace for imagination.

What a disservice to our children, that they never have to be bored.

And it’s not that I’m judging kids for their choices; it’s a by-product of our culture.  Following a path of least resistance is human nature. Even as a mama, when I was desperate for a break, I’d pop in a Barney video to babysit.

It concerns me for our collective future, mine and yours and ours, that we medicate on technology, how we suckle the internet like a babe to mother’s milk. We’re tempted to point at the addictions because we’re blind or maybe just numb to our own.

We settle for imaginary friends on Facebook. We crumble under the weight of comparison wielded by social sharing. We’re more connected than ever before, and paradoxically more isolated. It’s crazy.

My children are older now so I can’t fully control their influences or their choices about what to do for fun. What I can do is listen to my tears and pay attention to what moves me.

The truth is, I’ve been sitting here for too long trying to tidy my words and end with a neatly tied bow. I’m an optimist and idealist. I see bright sides and silver linings. I’m fighting the feeling of becoming a cliche, one who sees days gone by as halcyon; better, maybe, than they ever really were.

Sometimes having more questions than answers is the most honest place to land.


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Robin Dance
In a scandalous, decades-long affair with her husband, Robin also confesses mad crushes on her three almost-grown kids. She’s Southern as sugar-shocked tea and advocates talking to strangers, creative punctuation, stopping to smell the posies and walking in rain. Her favorite emotion is laughing through tears and she's convinced laughing IS divine. People and places inspire her, but Creation's marvels steal her breath. Her "prayer without ceasing" is Lord, I believe...help my unbelief. Robin plays with words and thoughts at RobinDance.me where she hopes you'll drop in from time to time. And if you can't get enough, you can also follow Robin on Twitter.