Monday, October 19, 2009

What if we get bored?

As a new stepmom, I am entering more fully the world of children's activities, cartoons, books and games. Up until now, I have watched from the sidelines as my sisters and friends chauffered their children to various activities, events and appointments -- all set to a soundtrack of Bob the Builder and Disney theme songs.

Sometimes, though, parents need activities that are just for them -- with no trace of princesses (don't even get me started), Spiderman or talking vegetables.

Friday night, my parents invited my sisters and me to a free Dixieland jazz show with the Queen City Jazz Band. When we were growing up, my folks took us to see this band at a variety of free concerts in the park, so there was some nostalgia attached to the event. I also have a personal love of all things jazz in nearly all its iterations.

I told C. I planned to go, and he and the kids were welcome to come, if they'd like. They did join us -- as did three out of four of my nephews.

On the drive down to the concert, Annie* (my stepdaughter) asked, "What if me and brother get bored?"

Hmm, what if the kids did get bored? Just what tragedy would ensue? Boredom -- is it the horror of all horrors to be avoided at any cost by parents everywhere?

The truth is, "boredom" allows a person's mind a free moment for creativity. I remember creating elaborate stories for myself as a child during many "boring" car trips (we didn't have car DVDs back then!), "boring" classical concerts and "boring" dinners at real restaurants (no ball pits, clown characters or free toys in the Merry Meal) with my parents.

Children do not need to be catered to and entertained every second of the day. Sadly, many parents give in (or give up?) and set up the portable DVD player during breakfast out at a cafe (what happened to food being the "event"?), or pop in a video game in the car on long road trips (doesn't anyone play the alphabet game anymore, or - gasp - look at the view?).

Parents have a bigger job than serving as personal social and event organizers for their children. They must help children learn about the world, learn how to think critically for themselves, discover how to create their own stories and grow into adults who enjoy life and all that it has to offer.

Life is about more than plugging in a machine for ready-made entertainment. Sometimes, a child is better served with little more than a pen and paper -- and a bored moment.

Friday night, my parents, sisters, C., five children and I lined up in two rows to listen to some good live music. Those five children listened, watched, pretended to drum along and practiced "conducting" the band. They also took advantage of boredom to doodle and write, and show their parents the results of their creativity.

They did beautifully. They had FUN (my 9-year-old nephew reported that the evening was "awesome!"). Their brains absorbed a little healthy music (which studies have shown aids brain development).

Oh, and their parents (and stepparents, in my case) were able to enjoy a little grown-up time. The singer had us all on our feet by the end, belting out "When the Saints Go Marching In." (Which elicited a few eye rolls from the younger set at how embarrassing their parents were acting - ha! I, for one, am not the least bit worried about being embarrassing.)

As I have said before, music feeds my soul. I needed that night out, and I am happy I was able to share it with my husband and stepkids.

Spongebob, Speed Racer, Cinderella and Dora - step aside. Tonight, we prefer to be "bored."

*Names changed


  1. I love your philosophy on this and agree 100%. Children barely have imaginations or creativity anymore because they can just "plug in" and get it done for them. Ugh...its frightening.

    And a girl after my own heart with a love of jazz...I'm just a music nut in general as I'm sure I've said fact I'm procrastinating in my getting my music room together tonight with my keyboard and a few artist prints on the walls. Eventually I'll have shelves with my musical memorabilia. Good for you for exposing those kiddos to skill my children WILL learn is how to read music and I'll encourage them to pick up an instrument. If after one year, they decide it isn't for them, thats ok...but at least they have that skill and hopefully a strong appreciation and love for music like their mom.

  2. The kids had piano lessons last night as well. They really enjoy music. Their dad and I also love music, so that makes me happy. :)