If this past very rainy holiday weekend is any indication, we have a long summer ahead of us. I say this because my sons (particularly one of them) didn’t know what to do with themselves, especially on Monday—Memorial Day—when we told them there would be no video games. (Sadly, we later reneged on this after hours of diabolical, methodical tactics wielded by our younger boy Andrew.) Yes, all the firm, parental declarations in the world are no match for one bored, almost-8-year-old boy. The day started innocently enough. Sure, we said no video games but that didn’t mean TV was off-limits. So Andrew watched cartoons…for a long time. Finally, when Rob and I looked up blearily from our newspaper and iPad and realized that it was lunchtime and our youngest was still in his PJs, staring intently at an infomercial as if the announcer were giving away free trips to Disneyland, we ordered him to turn off the boob tube and do something else. Something that resembled using his imagination. Next thing we knew, Andrew was bugging his older brother, who (after what seemed to be a long dry spell) was actually reading a book. You know, the kind with pages and words and an actual plot. Not wanting to break that precious spell, we shooed the little guy away from Ryan. Then he switched his attention to the dog…who was desperately trying to take a nap. Getting Murphy riled up takes some doing but Andrew was up to the challenge, even causing him to growl by ruffling his fur the wrong way and otherwise making his life miserable. So we ordered him to leave the dog alone. The little imp then decided to go outside in the rain and promptly got drenched. I am pretty sure he did this merely to make a point: “If I can’t be entertained, then I will create more laundry!” (Note to reader: You may wonder if a spanking was considered at this point. The answer is a resounding “yes!”)
I think back to what kids used to do when it rained…board games? Books? Model airplanes? My go-to activity, besides reading, used to be drawing. Ryan—our 12-year-old—seems the most like me in that respect. He has always drawn and sketched, though his choice of subjects is vastly different than my own. Where my specialty was girls (who all ended up looking strangely alike) in a variety of fashion ensembles or just faces, his is currently tanks. He draws tanks with great accuracy and intricacy and revels in the different models from different wars. Years ago he drew superheroes…and dogs…and trucks. Ryan spent a lot of time entertaining himself once upon a time because he was an only child for almost five years. Andrew doesn’t seem to have this skill, or perhaps it’s still under construction. All I know is that it is not my job, nor Rob’s, nor his brother’s to ensure that he is happy and engaged in some sort of meaningful activity. We tell him this in various ways. We say that cultivating hobbies is important. That his brother doesn’t have to play with him. That every kid has to learn how to amuse themselves at some point. He just stares at me. I picture the upcoming summer and the long days ahead and pray for patience, strength and extra doses of humor.
Of course there will be activities. We will go to the pool. I plan to enroll Andrew in swimming lessons again, as we did last year. We will take a vacation for a week or 10 days. There will be neighborhood friends to play with and other stuff going on. But there will also be days like last Monday, when no kids are available to play with, or it’s raining or too hot and boredom comes to call. There will be days when I restrict them from the X-Box just to see what they can find to do instead. Then I will draw upon my inner Mean Mommy and respond to the chorus of “I’m bored” with the good old fashioned (and satisfying) response: “If you’re bored, you’re boring.”
Back to last Monday. By mid-afternoon, we couldn’t take the psychological torture anymore and found ourselves folding like the proverbial pup tent when the video game pressure started up again. I am not proud of that. I only hope I can show more stamina this summer. In the meantime, I’m going to relish these remaining days of school, and start planning where I’m going to hide the controls to their video games. Who said moms can’t be diabolical too?