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.
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.