Somewhere along the way, we became a society that identifies itself by what we do. It usually is the first question someone will ask you in a social setting: "So, what do you do?". There are: calendars, crackberries, reminders, post-its, to do lists, charts and graphs; all trying to tell us what we have to get done today. It is enough to drive us all crazy, yet we persevere and continue to work, work, work; trying to fit in as much as possible in a day. Hence, it is with great effort that I try not to do anything. I try to enjoy the sunrise, because it is beautiful; not because I work early and happen upon it. I try to take time making dinner, because I love to cook; not because I have to get it done. Granted, it is impossible to do everything with a laissez faire attitude, but I think it is worth a shot. Interestingly, it is the one thing that I actually, really try to "do". It creates a template for imagination and creativity, that would otherwise go undeveloped. Like Nancy Reagan taught us in the 80's, I "just say no"; except it is not drugs that I refer to, but the constant push to do more and more.
Watching my children recently, I noticed how their desire to be busy all the time is not a good thing. They are constantly looking for that instant gratification of happiness. It is so difficult for them to just sit still. They have conceived that it is my responsibility to find them something to do. They are correct in their assumption, if they base it on what they observe in every other household. This pestering is not something something new, but our response to it as parents has changed drastically. Our generation has decided; we do not want our kids to have one idle moment. We fill their days with activities, as a mark of our good parenting. Kids never have to be creative, and invent something to do, or even just sit still.
Their generation is completely identified by what they do. It is ridiculous that, when parents meet other parents, they ask, "what does your kid do?" When I was growing up, kids were just kids. We did not "do" anything, we simply had fun. Kids today are projects. They are no longer something that just happened. We make conscious decisions on when and where to have them: we want it all to be perfect. So in this desire for the perfect family, we have lost our ability to say no. We want every moment organized, and charted out in a manner which is most productive.
I have not exactly been parenting forever, but I have learned quite a bit in the past 10 1/2 years. Being that I do not allow television watching, I may be a bit more inundated with the "nothing to do" question, but I sincerely doubt it. So, here is my strategy for boredom: when my kids say they are bored, I give them a list a chores to complete: i. e. wash the base boards, empty the hamper, take out the trash, run the sweeper. The next time they are bored, they reconsider asking me for an answer. They are creative, and find something on their own to do, or not. Since the inception and application of this strategy, I have seen profound successes, happier children, and a much cleaner house.
I know for a fact how difficult it is to unwind, and be happy with the stillness. I have tried to find the happiness in being busy. But, I have not found any proof that this option is more successful, or more fun, or more full filling. This happiness is just cluttered with detail, to the point of being distracted from reality. Even though, it is not easy, I recognize that I have my best thoughts, read the best books, and do my best work, in those moments of having nothing to do. I have decided that my children need to nurture their boredom, in order to find that inner happiness they are seeking. Buddha says, “Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine”. With all my ability, with all my energies, I am going to continue to let some of my day simply occur, and to stop trying to control everything.
Do you feel like your whole day is scheduled? Do you have time for the unexpected? Are your children overscheduled? Is it hard for you to say no?