Monday, 18 July 2011

Boredom - the mother of all invention

The summer holidays

Today is the first day of the summer holidays.  And this being England, the sky is dark, it’s raining and I’m wondering what the hell I’m going to do for the next two months.

I don’t want to be one of those women who are permanently negative about looking after their children.  I love mine to bits and on the whole, they’re fairly well behaved.  And as they always get re-invited to play with friends, I can only assume they behave well at other people’s houses.

But the holidays are long and kids get bored.

So what are the options?

For me the usual activities are: the museums; swimming; arranging play dates with friends (which isn’t always that easy when everyone’s away on holidays); football in the park; a couple of trips to the cinema and large amounts of alcohol for me!

Many of my friends look horrified that I haven’t got them booked into six weeks boot camp and two weeks on a family holiday.  Sorry – when I say ‘boot camp’, I do of course mean holiday clubs.

But I have an issue with this permanent ‘entertainment’ to keep the kids out of your hair. 

There is no doubt that the summer is a long schlep.  When I was a kid, we lived in the country, miles from anywhere, with no other kids to play with.  My mother’s response to my boredom was always:

“Why don’t you go and play in the garden?  You don’t know how lucky you are to have such a big garden to play in!” 

I like gardens, now, as an adult.  But as a kid, there’s a limit to how much you can do in one if there’s no one else to play with.

“Take the dog with you.”  My mother would then say.  Well, even the dog got bored and stopped bringing the ball back.

So, I invariably went back up to my room and read another book.  Got bored.  Had a fight with my sibling when they were there etc.  That was 30 or so years ago, but kids don’t change, do they?

I don’t want my kids to have quite such a boring summer as the ones I had.  But they have a very ordered and organised time during the term, and by the time the holidays come round they are exhausted.  They haven’t had time to play with the millions of toys they get given for their birthdays and have had very little ‘down time’. 

I do really believe that boredom is the mother of invention.  They are no longer so little that they need constant parental supervision and as they can both read, they can play games without my help.

The lack of organised activities undoubtedly means that I have to do more than just dropping off and collecting from holiday clubs.  Even as I type this, I can hear the pair of them upstairs screaming with laughter because they’re doing something I know they shouldn’t.  In fact, I think they’re flooding the bathroom.  Shit, shit and double shit.  But there’s a lesson in that:  you make a mess - you clear it up!

I want them to have an education in life.  And by that, I mean learning that going to the supermarket may be boring – but then again, if you go to the shop, you get to choose what you eat.  They will even be given the kids cookery book and get the chance to write a list of the ingredients needed to make something for their own supper once a week.

They will also learn that their desire to have a new dog means they have to walk it EVERY day.  Even when it’s raining and they’d rather play their Nintendos.

But most important of all, they will get to spend time with each other – time which I hope, when they’re older, they will look back on with affection.  They will hopefully have forged a bond that will last them a lifetime, because it will have been built on the need to take turns, share and look to each other for friendship. 

I’m not suggesting that none of these can be learnt in a holiday club, but I think there’s a difference between being ‘taught’ and ‘learning for yourself’.  And in a holiday club, they would not be together.

I have no doubt that there will be many moments this summer when I wish, like many others, they were booked into clubs so I can get a break.  But in the long run, I hope that they will become independent, self-reliant and have an enduring friendship with each other.

Here’s hoping… and where’s the corkscrew?

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