Boredom: One of Childhood’s Greatest Gifts
By Michele Howe
I was in the car running what felt like a zillion errands and couldn’t wait to get home, unload the groceries, packages, and whatever else, when I heard a radio host ask his interviewee what he felt was the greatest gift of childhood.
To my surprise, this educated educator, replied with one word.
Then, he recounted his childhood and how he spent his time as a boy running through the woods making up imaginary battles with pretend foes wearing himself out physically as he exercised his mind’s imagination and creativity.
I thought for a minute and then started remembering how I spent my childhood.
In a very similar way, I was outside (when the weather permitted) running through the woods across from my house with my neighbor friends (all of whom were two years older than me…and I felt graced to be counted as one of them.) We’d alternately play hide-n-seek in the woods, run down the steep hills, and just pretend we were living out there as we ate our little snacks sitting on tree stumps.
On one memorable occasion, I recall running as fast as I could back home to tell my mom that some man was in the woods with a shotgun…and you can bet we drew from that exciting experience.
Even now, some forty years later when I drive by Sandywell Drive, I look longingly at those woods and wonder if any of the kids on the street still run and play for hours like we did?
If the radio interview I heard was any indicator, the answer would be no. Most kids, statistically, don’t have free time to run, play, and hone their imaginations anymore. Instead, they have electronic devices in their hands 24/7 that do their running, playing, and creative thinking for them with whatever little “free time” they do still have.
I wonder why we parents think we’re benefitting our kids when we give them whatever they ask for, when in truth, we’re stripping away some of the best parts of childhood by not giving them the chance to feel some lack? to do without? to actually be bored?
I know when I’d tell my mom I was bored, she’d tell me to find something to do. And I would.
When my own kids came to me with the same complaint, I’d offer chores…then they’d look at me with disgust…but they’d run off and find something to do. Mission accomplished.
Getting back to the interview spot I heard, I would tend to agree, boredom truly is one of childhood’s greatest gifts because it pushes us (the young and old) to search out and enjoy the natural world all around us.