Written by Barbara Deatherage, blogger www.worthdoingpoorly.com
There’s no doubt—winter can be long. Seemingly endlessly long. It’s cold outside and often gloomy. Sometimes drizzly and damp.
So, what’s a mom or a dad to do when shut in the house with a bunch of bored kids?
There’s only so many times you can visit Chick-fil-A so they can play on the playground.
Another video game? Another hour on Netflix? How many hours can they actually spend in front of a screen without becoming mindless zombies? (Well, maybe not that bad!)
We have some suggestions, but, first, let’s look at a hidden, underlying problem. That cry that has come from children for decades—“Mom, I’m bored!”
An intriguing book called Deep Work written by Cal Newport came out in 2016. It’s all about focusing despite all the distractions that surround us. It’s not a parenting book, so what does it have to do with kids and winter boredom? Newport’s second rule for focusing is Embrace Boredom.
Embrace boredom? This was never my mom’s answer to my complaints of boredom. But maybe it should have been.
Newport suggests that we view boredom as a bad thing and that we turn to our screens to relieve it. Think about it. When you’re waiting at the doctor’s office, what do you do? Pull out your smart phone? When your kids are bored on the way to wherever, do you hand them a tablet?
Yeah, me, too . . . After reading Newport’s chapter on boredom, I was very aware of times I resort to my phone to keep me busy.
I was waiting for my “fast” food one day and caught myself going for the phone. I stopped myself and instead focused on the landscape around me. I had the joy of watching the light of the setting sun play through the trees across the street, catching on the few remaining fall leaves, changing as the sun inched downwards. I was fascinated by the beauty of something so simple—something I would have totally missed if I had “relieved” my boredom with a screen.
So, what are our kids missing out on when we give in to “Mom, I’m bored”?
- Could they have noticed the winter birds hopping in the trees in the backyard? And the squirrel who fussed at the birds, his tail snapping angrily?
- Could they have learned to bake cookies with you? Or had the fun of making a simple supper for the whole family?
- Could they have opened a real book and read to their siblings? Maybe even grabbed some makeshift costumes and a blanket curtain and acted out a scene from that book?
- Could they have noticed the elderly neighbor who still had leaves in her front yard? And maybe raked up those leaves just because?
- Could they have wondered how electricity works when they flip a switch and then looked for a library book that could answer the question?
- Could winter become a time to embrace boredom until it stimulates the natural curiosity of a child and sets them on the path to discovery?
Did somebody say they were bored?
Great! Let’s be bored together and see what happens!
Barbara Deatherage is the Elementary Ministry Coordinator at Stonebriar Community Church. At nineteen, her life completely changed when she met Jesus Christ and accepted Him as her Savior. Three days later, she met Jim Deatherage who would become her husband. Barbara went from rebellious college girl to pastor’s wife in a very short amount of time. Several moves took them from Pennsylvania to Maryland to Virginia to North Carolina to Kansas and finally to the North Texas area where they live now. Also, along the way, Barbara and Jim became mom and dad to four children: Rachael, Caleb, Melody, and Evan. Their kids are growing up, but that means the blessing of four grandkids. What fun! We are pleased to adapt this blog post from Barbara’s personal blog, Worth Doing Poorly, where God has led her to a season of giving back. Titus 2:3-5 says, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”