The Rockwood Files: Let me entertain you

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

I’m feeling a little summer anxiety right now. Tomorrow is the last day of school, and then the questions will begin: “Mom, what games do you want to play? Can we go somewhere? What are we going to do now, Mom?” Soon my kids will be looking at me like I’m their personal cruise ship director, in charge of leading them in various entertaining activities that soak up the hours formerly occupied by school.

Little do they know that, while they were at school these past nine months, I’ve been home doing stuff they categorize as boring – computer work, laundry, errands, dishes, diapers, and driving kids to haircuts and doctor appointments. It’s not real exciting stuff. They’re bound to be disappointed by what I’ve got on tap.

If I don’t get creative, their back-to-school essay about what they did over the summer break will go something like this: “I got three haircuts. I watched my mom fold clothes. I ate grilled cheese sandwiches. The end.”

I do have a few things planned for them, including Vacation Bible School, swimming lessons and a basketball day camp for the boys. And somewhere along the way we’ll try to squeeze in a trip to Grandma’s house and some weekends on the lake. But the days between all those events are bound to trigger their fair share of three of the most dreaded words a mother hears all summer: “Mom, I’m bored.”

Any time I hear my kids complain of boredom, something deep in my gut wants to launch into a lecture that goes: “When I was a kid, we didn’t get to go around saying we were bored. We just found something to do because our mother was busy!” But I don’t say it, partly because it would make me sound about 100 years old and partly because something in me really does feel responsible for entertaining them. Why?

Feeling responsible for a kids’ entertainment is definitely unique to our generation. For my parents and their parents, a kid being bored didn’t even register on their radar as a problem. They didn’t pretend to be in charge of keeping us amused. They simply pointed us out the door and said “Go play. Come back at dinner.” We cured summer boredom on our own with siblings, neighborhood kids, cousins and whatever entertainment we could dream up. Some days we stayed busy from morning until dark riding bikes and playing around the neighborhood. On other days we lounged around watching way too much Scooby Doo and eating bowls of Captain Crunch. But somehow we survived it just fine.

Somewhere along the way, we parents decided it was our job to schedule our kids’ time, ensuring that it stays full of educational opportunities and socialization and sports and a whole host of other things to do. I wonder if, in the process, we’ve robbed them of the ability to be their own friend – to explore things on their own and learn what they like to do with their free time.

So this summer I’m going to try a little experiment. Part of the time I’m going to take the kids to the park, the library, the matinee, the pool and set aside some time to enjoy the summer with them. But I can’t drop everything to be their cruise ship director. So while I’m doing all my boring mom stuff, I’m going to hand them a list of suggestions with summer classics on it – things like making mud pies, running through the sprinkler, burying your feet in the sandbox, blowing bubbles, playing hide-and-seek, reading books and eating popsicles in the backyard. Then I’m going to say “Go play. Tell me all about it at dinner.”

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1 Comment

  1. This column is great! I laughed hysterically when I read it in the Sunday paper a few weeks ago. My mother is forever getting on to me about being my 3 year old daughter’s “personal jester.” I’ll never forget growing up every time one of me or my siblings complained of boredom my mom always said “I would love to be bored. Enjoy it while it lasts.” I totally get where she was coming from now!! My aunt takes my side, though! She told me if she could change one thing she would have spent “less time chasing dust and more time just playing with and enjoying my children when they were small.” It’s all about striking a balance, I’m sure. What I find funny is that although my daughter enjoys my constant attention and entertainment she completely buck my attempts to direct her activities. I’ll take her to the pool wanting her to go down all the little kiddie slides and ride piggy back on me in the water. And she just wants to walk up to everyone and ask them their name and what they are doing. Or will fixate on a rock she found by the fence or even on the chairs people sit on–trying to climb into them, tip them over,etc. Or I’ll plan this cool excursion to a scheduled event at the library and before we get in the car she gets all puppy eyed and says “I want to play just a little bit” and we will totally miss the event because she spends the next 45 minutes gathering rocks in a bucket or walking around talking to trees. It’s maddening but I realize that I just need to chill and let her do her own thing!

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