Parenting styles come into fashion.
At the moment I keep reading about FREE RANGE PARENTING and letting your children be natural kids, and above all – letting them be bored.
Apparently, being bored is what makes kids creative and learn to entertain themselves.
Presumably, only bourgeois, small-minded losers like me actually plan things or even – *clasps hands to mouth in horror* – organise entertainment for their kids.
Well, I’m not about to apologise.
I’m a single parent looking down the barrel of a 9 week summer break.
I’m okay with giving Flea a week or two of downtime at home. She enjoys entertaining herself writing stories and playing with her Playmobil figures, and whizzing up and down the street on her bike. It’s great when that happens because I can still do a certain amount of work, and keep business ticking over.
But she’s seven, and an only child, so her ability to entertain herself only goes so far. There are no children of her age on our street, and there comes a point where boredom isn’t a springboard for having fun – it’s just boring. Especially when Mummy is stuck on the computer, again.
So we tend to use the long summer break as an opportunity to have lots of fun together. There are periods where she gets bored, and I work, and the pay-off for that is the other days. When I don’t work, and she isn’t bored.
We travel. We go to theme parks. We go to castles and museums and visit new cities, and catch trains and swim, and spend long days on the beach, making sandcastles. On rainy days we might go to the cinema, or the bowling alley. We might visit friends, or Flea’s grandparents.
It’s not very free range, I know.
But here’s the thing. I’m not sure this whole, “Oh, when I was a kid we just entertained ourselves” thing is true, to begin with.
I remember our summer holidays as being a time when we played out on our bikes and made dens and played in the garden. Of course, it was easier with three brothers and half a dozen friends who lived on the same street. But there were days when we were pretty free range.
But most of our summer wasn’t like that. There were plenty of other days when we went out with our parents. We went to castles and country parks and museums and visited relatives. We went to the cinema, or to the toy shop to spend birthday money on new Playmobil and Star Wars figures. My Mum would pack up a picnic and we’d head off on an adventure to explore some place or other. We didn’t have much spare money, I don’t think, but we were well entertained. One of my favourite days out as a child was visiting Skipton Castle and playing knights around the castles turrets and staircases.
Perhaps kids do need to be bored occasionally to develop the skills they need to entertain themselves. And certainly, kids need time to play independently to build up social skills.
But let’s stop pretending boredom is some fantastically superior moral choice, because it isn’t.
Boredom is boring. For kids and for adults.
I’m unashamedly saying right here, right now, that our summer break is intended to be a break from the routine. I’m planning on stuffing it with as many new activities, games and laughs as is humanly possible – and maybe a bit more besides.
Who’s with me?