Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Mum, I'm bored"

The summer school holidays for many children, heralds the arrival of long sunny days of relaxation, no homework, more flexible bedtimes and routines in general go out the window. A week away to the coast is usually on our summer agenda but for the rest of the holiday period work continues as normal. The near abandonment of routines during the school holidays does wonders for reducing my daily stress levels.
Most mornings during the school term I feel as though I’m the head of a highly disorganised SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) team. The mornings are chaotic as the boys and I rush to eat breakfast, make lunches, find school clothes, brush teeth, (occasionally hair), locate school books, sign crumpled school notes containing important bits of information and rummaging around the house for gold coins to send in for various noble causes. This morning routine culminates with my voice booming out, “It’s eight fifteen GO GO GO!!” and Max, Sam and Henry head out the door for their bicycles and school.
Hooray for school holidays, for a few weeks the pressure is off. No school lunches to make, no weekly panic to bake muffins or biscuits for play-lunch, no incessant questioning along the lines of, “Have you done your homework?” or demands of, “Come back inside and do your homework….. NOW!”
Rather frustratingly for parents the school holidays are also a time where we may hear far too regularly, “Mum/Dad, I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.”
One evening only a few weeks into this year’s summer holidays and nine year old Henry came and sat next to me. For a brief moment I thought we were having one of those lovely mother/son bonding experiences… well, up until he started talking that was….
Henry: “Mum, what are you doing tomorrow?”
Me: “I’m working tomorrow Henry; what are you doing?”
Henry: “I’m bored tomorrow Mum”
Oh great, I thought, now we’ve evolved a step further up the Boredom-o-meter; we are now into the realm of pre-meditated boredom.
My remedy is a hefty list of jobs that need attending; it’s amazing how boredom disappears when you suggest perhaps the bored child in question would like to tidy their bedroom/clean the bathroom/mow the lawns/cook dinner ….or maybe they could just go outside and play.
My parents circumvented boredom by arranging the annual station program around the holiday dates. General shearing, crutching, lamb-marking etc… were all coordinated to commence at the start of each school holiday. We also had the advantage of the seemingly endless Hay Plains to run around on unsupervised, ride bikes, horses, build cubby houses and forts.
Are we just far too over-protective these days? Over zealous and hyped up media reporting of accidents and crimes can cause unnecessary anxiety in parents, making them overly anxious when children are out of eyesight. It can be tempting to hover over our children and make sure they’re okay but this isn’t all that helpful; children need space and time to solve their own problems. Children will struggle with responsibility as adults if they aren’t given opportunities to be responsible as children.
Are children today more bored than generations past? Are children losing their imagination and ability to amuse themselves due to an over commitment of extra curricular activities? In our quest to offer our children every opportunity are we denying them the time to develop and use their own imagination and actually think for themselves?

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