Monday, June 17, 2013

The Magic of Summer Boredom {and having a quiet spirit}

And so it happens every year.  Mid-May the lazy days of summer stretch endlessly before me and I wonder how we will fill our aimless days.  Mid-June arrives and time seems to be flying by too quickly.  When I was a teacher I loved the month of June but by the 4th of July my thoughts began turning toward bulletin boards, new students and the need to begin lesson planning for August.  Now that I do not have a classroom to decorate or lessons to plan, I look forward to the month of July as the absolute pinnacle of summertime. Half of June is taken up by learning to settle down (I do have three very active boys) and settle into the new rhythm  of obligation-free days.  I must admit to having had a few fond memories of quiet schooldays during the first week of having all three boys around home. 
But then the magic begins to happen.
  
They start to find their own quiet pastimes and to occupy themselves because they know there is nothing spectacular planned every moment of every day to distract them.  This is when I remember the value of good old-fashioned boredom.  After the desire to play X-Box all day long has run its course (and it always does after only a day or two), they are noticeably calmer, more focused and creative in their play. I go about my own routines quietly:  cooking, cleaning up, folding laundry, watering flowers, checking e-mails etc... and eventually they are doing their own routines right alongside me. 
A week ago I dug out the Smashbooks we had all gotten into two years ago but hadn't touched once during the school year.  I piled my supplies on the outdoor table and soon I had two welcome companions doodling away in their own journals. My middle son, ZJ, had the best time reading what he had written two summers ago and he even found a long-lost rookie card tucked inside a pocket.

My little one, KC, began smashing as well, even with his splinted broken finger. (I knew we wouldn't get through the summer without a trip to the ER.) For an hour I was truly in heaven on earth with my boys quietly playing beside me. I have such a quiet spirit, (see the quiet manifesto here), and being in the presence of other quiet spirits really fills me up. My boys are much like me - outgoing when necessary, introverted at the core.

This summer has shown me that our family has cultivated the ability to be content in our own presence.  We do not require lots of activity or people to find joy in the everyday. Yet they each enjoy having time with their friends, as I do. There is peace in the ability to hang out with someone who likes to do the same kinds of not much of anything in particular. Wandering around outside, exploring the grass, looking for bugs and collecting sticks is even more fun with a friend your own age.
In my most favorite parenting book, Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne describes boredom as a gift that allows children time to reduce the external stimuli in their lives and begin to tap into their own internal stimuli and creativity.
Unfortunately, most kids (and adults) aren't very good at this and the first weeks of summer can feel like some horrible form of withdrawal. Temper tantrums, whining and moodiness might just be the outward signs of the internal adjustments going on. It certainly happened around here.  But now, 20 days into summer vacation, the benefits of boredom are becoming commonplace. Nothing makes me happier than finding that a silence has fallen within our house and as I make the rounds I find KC playing Legos, ZJ listening to music and RW reading while gliding gently in  my old rocking chair. 

That's when I tiptoe away to a favorite quiet corner filled with books, pens, notebooks and sunlight and take time to savor the calm in my own way.  It doesn't last long. If I spend it doing more work I will never get my necessary moment of refueling.
And when the wilds inevitably return I can always find a chore for the 'cleaning laddies' to do. I try not make it a punishment but just a redirection of energy which must be spent. 
I promise it works. 





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4 comments:

  1. I love this post. I am trying to settle into a low key summer mode. I hate feeling scheduled, planned and running around to entertain during the summer (or any time) - it seems a lot of my friends are this way (which is fine for them) but it doesn't work for me. My kids have been playing so much together, I'm seeing a lot of creativity from their imaginations. All of our moments aren't perfect :) but that is quite all right. Your post is reminding me to try to slip away for more me time - which is actually what I'm sort of doing right now with my laptop for some long overdue blog reading by the pool while the kids have been playing for over an hour.

    Happy summer! :)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Aggie - you said it - it works for your friends but does not work for you as well and that is the realization that sets us free from conforming to the accepted norm. Enjoy your poolside time - sounds divine!

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  2. What wonderful insights! The future will be promising if we have more children (and adults) who are "outgoing when necessary, introverted at the core". Thanks for sharing!

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~Grace and peace to you~

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