Thursday, 18 February 2010

I'm bored

Today I read an article in the Daily Mail about a mum who was pleased that her children were bored during the half term holiday. After gnashing my teeth for a while over my oversight in not pitching this idea to them myself, I felt myself turn ever hotter with shame at all the activities I normally lay on for my boys in the school holidays.

This half term has been pretty typical and on Monday they went to soft play, on Tuesday they went to a different soft play area, on Wednesday they went into London to a museum, today I took them out to lunch in China Town followed by shopping in Covent Garden. Tomorrow is as yet unfilled, but daddy is taking the day off work to help me keep them entertained, so no doubt some treat will be laid on.

In the summer we go away or book them into summer camps and in the shorter holidays a combination of nannies, grandparents and parents keep them ever amused with days out, trips to the cinema and other assorted amusements.

This in stark contrast to my own school holidays which I recall as stretching empty, and yet strangely inviting, with little promise of anything out of the ordinary to keep me from getting bored. They never started well as away from the routine and social life of school I initially found myself a little bereft. I was effectively an only child as my only sibling was eight years older and wanted nothing to do with me during the brief years we shared a house, so there really was no diversion for me during those weeks and weeks off school.

My parents both worked, and even if they hadn't in those days I don't think parents really thought it was their job to keep their children entertained. Instead I would, depending on my age, spend my summers building showjumps out of bamboo canes in my garden and leap around over them pretending I was Lucinda Prior-Palmer (any pony mad girls of the 70s will know who I mean), pedalling round the countryside on my bike, playing with my sister's old toys in a dusty back bedroom or mooching around the shops in search of the latest, must-have teen fashion item.

In other words I made my own entertainment. If I ever did whine to my mum that I was bored she would instantly suggest I did some mundane household chore and that would send me scuttling for my bedroom and the infinitely more attractive options it held. I can't imagine what my sons would say if I suggested they help me with the laundry instead of whipping off to a toy shop or attraction during the school holiday.

My oldest boy threw a strop when it was mooted that he should go to the Natural History Museum, which was his brother's first choice, rather than go shopping for new toys, which was his first choice. I did point out to him the discrepancy between his entertainment options and my own childhood, but he just cried even harder.

When I was little I did live in the arse end of nowhere, which meant that trips out were harder, as a result I still remember the few outings that I made into town with wonder and awe. Seeing Star Wars at the cinema, a panto in a nearby town, a school trip to the Cutty Sark, these were big deals in my childhood. For my children they are everyday occurrences.

I often wonder if all this indulgence really is kind to them. Perhaps by taking the special nature out of such treats we render them meaningless. I doubt my boys will remember anything particular from their childhood, despite the vast sums of money and parental time we have spent on them. Perhaps they will recall a trip to Disney in Florida, or maybe a skiing holiday or two. But all those hours spent in safari parks, at shows or in the cinema are likely to meld into one round of gaiety and fun, rather than remain picked out in stardust in their memories forever, like those special days out do for me to this day.

I fear I am I robbing them of the excitement by making it commonplace, but when I ponder the alternative, which is sitting around in our house watching the boys make their own amusement. The chaos, the horror, the damage doesn't bear thinking about, so perhaps the sacrifice of a bit of wide-eyed wonder is worth it to retain my sanity and keep the payments on the house insurance within reason.


  1. I wouldn't stress to much about it, do what you think is right not what someone form the daily Mail says they think is right.

  2. I totally agree with Heather! This is your life too, and the entertainment you choose to provide is a much for your benefit and entertainment too (really, would you rather do the laundry or shop in Covent Garden??)

    As for memories, the fact that all of their best ones will contain you, in whatever context, is priceless.

  3. I think there is a great deal of merit in teaching children the art of using their imagination to create their own entertainment. Easier said than done of course, when they're whining in your ear...

  4. What a smug, self righteous parenting lesson from the Daily Mail. Just what everyone needs.
    Don't beat yourself up - you are doing a great job. I'm sure your children have a good balance of creative, imaginary play as well as reaping the benefits of some seriously fun days out.

  5. I also remember long hours playing by myself as a child. But my sister was 3 years younger, and I think it is a bit different if you have 2 or more small children close in age as I and you have. They do need some outings and excursions, or you'd go mad. I think it's a matter of getting the right balance.

  6. I remember many happy hours of reading or playing alone or being outdoors with siblings and cousins without today's distractions (TV, internet, video games etc.).

    I also remember Disneyworld and Hamleys and cinema trips and my first West End show with equal affection.

    I think we idealise our childhoods so long as they were generally happy and it doesn't matter whether they were action packed or sparse on activities. It's the context not so much the content of what we enjoyed and who we enjoyed it with. Nice piece, btw.

  7. Stacey and Heather - yep, Covent Garden definitely preferable to laundry in my book.

    MTJAM - absolutely. I would love to be the kind of mum who had 101 tricks to keep the kids amused up my sleeve, but what with working and generally being quite lazy in that department, that is so not me.

    Jenny & NVG - not sure they get quite the balance I would like, but they seem quite bright, well adjusted boys, so fingers crossed I am doing something right

    BAT - loving your abbreviation, and yes I think you are probably right, we spend far too much time beating ourselves up about our parenting skills nowadays, no doubt due to such helpful articles in the media. Mind you mea culpa I do write some of them! Thanks for the compliment too, always appreciated.

  8. My son told one of the mums at school today that he'd 'only left the house once all holiday, to go to a soft play place.' Um, so you didn't think to mention the three-day trip to your grandparents', then, son? Or the v expensive trip to Twin Lakes adventure theme park, and the zillionf rollercoasters, fairground rides, quad bikes and shooting galleries you played on/in for the entire day?
    Spoilt or what?