[bl]W[/bl]ords I hate to hear: I’m bored.
We live in a time and place where children have more toys and games and things to watch on TV than ever before. And they’re bored? And don’t you dare speak these words when I’m stepping over a pile of laundry to get to the oven to see if dinner is ready. There are many days I wish I was bored!
My children should know better. They’ve lived in a place where children make toys out of wire clothes hangers and bottle caps. They make soccer balls out of bags and ropes or banana leaves. My children have seen what it’s like to have little. They’ve seen the creativity and resourcefulness of people who make the best out of what they have.
So when those words were spoken in my house today, it didn’t go over well.
I have given my children so much. Too much? Is that the problem? They don’t have to be creative because they’ve been given so much?
We’re not even a family who has a lot of toys. Dolls, dress up clothes, trains, Legos, Nerf weaponry, play kitchen, books, crafts, movies, computer – its plenty, and for a family with five children, this adds up. But we don’t have television and we avoid the heavily marketed toys that don’t leave much room for make-believe and creativity.
But still, it seems too much. And just like it is for me, provisions keep my children from really seeing. From really experiencing. From really working.
And even though I’m selective, the activities I place before them aren’t really satisfying. Maybe it’s not that my children are bored, but that they’re hungry for more. More meaningful activities. More me. More Dad. More family interaction that leads to full hearts. More serving others, less serving self.
We open up Charlotte’s Web this morning. Even some pig gets bored.
There’s never anything to do around here. When I’m out here, there’s no place to go but in. When I’m indoors, there’s no place to go but out in the yard.
Goose lets Wilbur in on a secret. There’s a loose board that leads to freedom.
Where do you think I’d better go? Wilbur asks her.
Anywhere you like, anywhere you like. Go down through the orchard, root up the sod! Go down through the garden, dig up the radishes! Root up everything! Eat grass! Look for corn! Look for oats! Run all over! Skip and dance, jump and prance! Go down through the orchard and stroll in the woods! The world is a wonderful place when you’re young.
We are all struck at the similarity of the situation. Connor says, You’re like Goose, Mom.
We keep reading and Mrs. Zuckerman sees Wilbur’s escape and cries for her husband. Together they put an end to the adventure and lure Wilbur back to captivity.
And suddenly, I wonder if I’m really Mrs. Zuckerman, not Goose. Do I really encourage freedom in my children? Or do my values of safety and “doing things right” keep them from freely exploring? From trying things that might seem above their age level. From allowing them to participate in real work. From letting them find loose boards that let them escape the safety of my arms and watchful eye.
Maybe that’s why I put Legos in front of them. Indeed they are creative, but they are also safe. Maybe that’s why I invest in indoor activities more than outdoor adventures. It keeps them close.
And like the Zuckermans, I know I can give my children warm slop and lure them back to the safe place I have created for them. And there’s nothing really wrong with this. Wilbur even admits he felt safe when the board was nailed down.
I’m really too young to go out into the world alone.
And my children are too. I think that’s why they wish I would join them. That’s why they want me to put down the wooden spoon, walk way from the pile of laundry, and skip checking my email so I can play and dig and explore with them.
Admittedly, I’m not a great outdoor mom. I’m much better at reading them stories and including them in my baking and cooking.
But I want to be an environment of grace for these full of life, full of adventure children.
I hope I can learn how to encourage them to find a loose board, maybe even loosen it for them, maybe even climb through with them.