I believe that words have power. From the time our children learned to speak, we passed this lesson on to them. Words have power to get you a snack, to make your momma smile, to hurt your brother’s heart. Even though our children are much older now, it is not unusual to hear Mark or me say “Use your words, Benjamin.” when his passion or impulsivity or erupting joy risk getting the best of him. We remind all the children to think things through and talk it out on a regular basis. (And I am ever grateful to my friend Denise, who first used these words within earshot of my mold-able mommy brain with her first-born, Michaela.)
Words have power to accomplish things outside of ourselves and to impact our relationship with others. And, words have power to effect great change within us, as well. When we speak our frustration in anger, that frustration has a foothold from which to expand. When we give sarcasm a place, it increases the critical eye with which we see those around us. (This is an area that is a struggle for me, especially.) And when we complain and criticize on a regular basis, it becomes exceedingly difficult to find a place of contentment. Our words send a message to our brains, but this is a message that we can seek to direct. In being kind, in being positive, in being patient, we tell ourselves all kinds of wonderful things about our family, our life, our current situation.
And so it came to be that we banned a word in our house. It goes without saying that, in reality, we have banned MANY words. But, the summer is a special time and we add to that list a word that, as a teacher, I had heard far too often. This word can be a response to a lull in activity, a request to be entertained, a complaint about the level of excitement. And yet, it is a cop-out of sorts and a criticism of situation that is often unwarranted. Have you guessed the word? The word is BORED.
As in (prepare your best whine here):
“Mom, I’m bored!”
Now, you all know we have lived on a ridiculously tight budget for the past 2.5 years. But, even in our “time of less” my children have plenty of toys and plenty of games and plenty of books, all in addition to a yard to-die-for! In addition to all these amazing things-to-do, they have another bonus! We tell them often that we have given them each three gifts that they get to play with and enjoy for the rest of their lives! Each of my sweet babies has been blessed with the gift of three other siblings! (This is how we try to help them see these other little people with whom they are forced to share most minutes of their lives… for the good and the bad found together.)
We didn’t start out with a plan to ban the word bored. To be honest, when my kids were very little, it was a word they just didn’t know. Mark and I do not use it and so it somehow wasn’t taught. As they got older, they picked it up, tried it out and I quickly realized that hearing my curious, energetic, relational, busy children claim boredom was somehow offensive to me. It just didn’t fit. With a house full of toys created and purchased to spark their little brains, with more bookshelves than space to house said shelves, with room to play and siblings to engage and general positive attitudes, where might this boredom originate? It felt to me like hearing someone say, “I do not feel like entertaining myself. Will you?” It felt like hearing, “None of these toys quite do it for me. Get me something else.” It felt like hearing, “My life is not quite measuring up to my standards. Fix it for me.” And, overall, I just didn’t like it.
Add to this our belief that words have power to effect what we think and feel. Boredom begets boredom! We have found that when our children do not use that word, they do not see the world as something that they look at in terms of what it is offering them. They see their part in making this day good. They see that their experience today has much to do with what they put into it. Now, at 12, 10, 6 and 5, they would not put it quite that way. : ) They would say that mom does not let them say that word. They would say that when they don’t know what to do, they need to think a little bit harder. They would say that the world is a pretty cool place with lots of stuff to do.
Even with the word banned, we still see signs of boredom from time-to-time. Noah has been known to say, “I feel like I want to do something, but I am not sure yet what it is.” A bit more verbally cumbersome than “I am bored.” but similar in meaning… and yet quite different. The focus here is on Noah needing to think of what is next for him. The focus is communication that there is a lull… with an eye to the fact that it is temporary. It is not so much complaint as comment. I can live with that.
So, for years and years, we have kindly requested that our children leave this word at the door. We have provided some structure, some direction to their long summer days and in taking out a word that sends a negative message, we have given room to their natural curiosity to look outside and see a world of opportunity, to look inside and see toys re-purposed, to look at a sibling and see an adventure waiting to unfold. It is a paradigm shift in the life of a child that empowers them to see the part they play in having a great day.
The next three months will hold nearly 100 long days. All of these days will be lived out in the wonder of creation which is anything but boring. I have a chance to help my children see the wonder in it all. I have the chance to help them learn to think, to play, to make room in their frenetic lives for momentary stillness. Banning this word and encouraging my children does not, however, let me off the hook. Behind all these opportunities for free-play lies planning and organizing that leaves less room for being bored.
Keep reading for what we are working on and playing toward this summer… I will post again soon!
Blessings on your day!