It has been a long summer break, for us. Longer than normal, due to our school being rebuilt and giving us extra weeks at the beginning and end of the holidays. 8 weeks in total. In some ways it’s been lovely, but in other ways, it has been challenging.
We have had lots of fun things to do, and because of my knee operation, I have made a concerted effort to provide the kids with some things to do, and keep them busy, because it’s not their problem that their mum was sofa bound for a few weeks, and then not as able to get us out and about as much as we normally would do, in the holidays. They are relatively normal kids, who have coped pretty patiently with that.
However, they have been bored, and at times, frustrated, and frankly, just a little annoying, but I am actually ok with that.
You see, I don’t think it is my job to be 24/7 entertainment and source of stimulation for my kids. Whilst I am their carer/provider and protector (as is their dad, but this post is mainly based on my role, because I don’t work full time in the holidays and am at home more with them, because that’s what works for us) I don’t think I should have to be the one to them busy and entertained all the time. In fact, I refuse to. I think we have, today, as a society, put so much pressure and expectation on mums (parents) to be EVERYTHING to our kids, when actually, kids need to learn for themselves sometimes.
My own mother, did not constantly entertain us, or provide us with endless sources of activities. She was loving and caring, and she did do things with us. She taught us to cook, she taught me to knit and craft, and she was very firm in teaching both my brother and I life skills like laundry, cleaning etc, but she didn’t spend hours sourcing activities or crafts for us, or planning things to do to keep us busy. She expected us to entertain ourselves to a greater extent, at the age my kids now are, and we got on with it. I didn’t have any expectation that my mum would play with me all the time, and it was good for me. I did get bored, and I did whine, but she wasn’t very tolerant, and would point out that I had toys, games, books, a garden to play with, places to explore, and if I was bored it was my own fault. If I got really annoying she would find me things to do, like cleaning or tidying, so you can be pretty certain that I learned that if I didn’t want to be handed the vacuum cleaner, I needed to find things to do. She did spend time with us, and we had days out, and we did fun things but it wasn’t like today where I feel that I am expected to basically keep my kids amused at all cost, myself, or expense (clubs and activities) or I am a bad parent. I actually learned to like figuring out how to entertain myself, and she did provide us with things, like books, craft stuff and toys, of course, but it wasn’t up to her to be our playmate and entertainer. We would sit and read together, or watch a movie, or go for a walk together, but she didn’t sit for hours making playdough or coloring or combing Pinterest for the next thing to while away the rainy days of the holidays (ok, so no Pinterest back then, but you know what I mean)
I have instigated this with my own kids. I will do things with them, we happen to love cooking together, watching movies together, reading together, going out to places we like, but I am not going to spend my whole time being “on call” to entertain them. At 7 and nearly 11, they are perfectly capable of playing either together, or alone, and they have plenty to do to keep them busy without me hovering. If they complain of being bored, I am not that sympathetic (to a point, if they they have been stuck indoors all day because it’s raining, and miserable and they have outspent their abilities to self entertain, I will of course intervene) but I refuse to feel guilty or crowdsourced for things to keep the constantly occupied. I am also a person with needs, and I also work some of the time in the holidays and it has been good for them to learn that Mum isn’t their on call maid, frankly. If I tell them they need to play for an hour whilst I do some work, they know I mean it. I am there if they really need me, but unless they are hurt, or sick, they REALLY actually don’t. They have been surprisingly creative about it actually. Last week, there was whining about being bored. I told them they needed to find something to do whilst I made some calls and got dinner sorted (and frankly I wanted half an hour alone in the kitchen) and they grumbled a bit, but then took themselves off into the garden where they cleaned and then played happily on the trampoline for a good long while. Necessity is the mother of invention, no? They have coloured, made crafts, played Lego, pulled out puzzles, played games with each other, read books, played pretend play alone and together, played in the garden, watched tv, and even done some basic food prep for themselves, all without me hovering over them to make sure they were fully occupied and ok and with minimal help or input from me. I think we are raising generations of kids who can’t entertain or amuse themselves without input from others, and the constant expectation of stimulation and input from either their parents/carers or electronic devices (that’s a whole other blog post for another day!) and it’s not healthy for them, or the adults caring for them.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore my kids, and I do enjoy doing things with them, but I honestly don’t think mother’s should be made to feel like we HAVE to be there for our kids all the time, when it comes to them learning how to entertain themselves and not be bored. Obviously common sense must be applied. I know that my small son left entirely to his own devices all day with no physical exercise isn’t good for him, and I won’t let them sit on watching tv or using an electronic device all day every day, but I am not a magician or kids entertainer and they need to learn to play alone, and grow in their own independence, and learn what works for them. I may even have offered the option of some chores when cries of boredom arose (my mum would be SO proud).
So, yes, it’s been a long break, and to be honest, we are all glad that normal routine is coming back soon, and back to school and work are looming, we have loved the time together but back to our usual lives is something we are looking forward to.
My kids have been bored this summer, but I am ok with that and for once, there is no mum guilt!
Stock images use with permission