The sun announces its arrival a little too early. Although the blinds are shut, there is enough light to allow several rays of morning into our room. It’s only 5:45 a.m., but the day begins even if I am not always ready. My daughter’s never embraced sleeping in. Her footsteps will soon greet me. Breakfast, brushing teeth, bathing, and the question of the day, “What are we going to do today Momma?” happens in quick succession.
Summer break is here and trying to answer this question is always a challenge. I’ve grappled with the answer. As a little girl growing up in the suburbs of Texas, I didn’t attend summer camps or have a playdate scheduled everyday of the week. Because I was an only child for almost 9 years, I learned to play on my own. Part of playing included simple pursuits, like riding my bike down the street, skipping rocks at the local creek, and hanging out with neighborhood friends in the front yard. Other parts of my summer were filled with trips to the library where I checked out several books at once. I spent time in one particular corner of the couch so often, I can still recall the pattern on the sofa fabric.
My mom and dad were not shuffling me from one place to another in order to keep me entertained during the summer. And yes, like most kids, there were long stretches of time where the phrase, “I am so bored” kept coming up. A few days ago, my daughter uttered the same phrase, “I am bored Momma.” I found it a little odd that she would say this, especially because her weekend was full of activities: a swimming party, a playdate, and a dinner outing. It irritated me when she said this, partially because I saw it as a shortcoming on my part, but then as I pondered her statement, I thought, What’s wrong with boredom? I told my daughter, “It’s ok to be bored.”
Part of appreciating time is knowing its there. Our society perpetuates this myth that overcommitting ourselves and saying yes to everything and everyone is somehow the perfect antidote to happiness. I am not exempt from buying into this myth. I spent years not allowing myself to be “bored.” Filling my time with self-created errands and commitments that weren’t really fulfilling, I saw much of my time evaporate, questioning what I had really accomplished.
A few days ago, my daughter and I spent the evening being bored. And this is what it looked like: we spent an hour reading together side by side, we cooked dinner together as she asked me about a new word she read in her book, and we played shadow puppets in the dark with the flashlight. I felt the gravity of time in our interaction and the purity in our spending our evening together. We were not driving around or stimulating her with television or other people or things, but allowing time to take over enough to truly appreciate it.