By Scott James
Summer is here and my kids have that wild look in their eyes. They are ready for high adventure, ready for freedom. They fly out the door in search of excitement, attacking the day with vigor and boundless potential. Ten minutes later, they’re back inside reciting what seems to have become their summertime motto:
Seriously. What am I supposed to do with that? I’ll tell you what I usually end up doing — I become an activities coordinator, which basically amounts to me endlessly listing things to do in the face of children who insist there’s nothing to do. But no matter what I suggest or how egregiously I bend the screen-time rules, I only seem to exasperate their boredom more.
Eventually, I quit trying and just let them be bored.
Oddly enough, on the other side of a few minutes (or hours) of moping, they always seem to break out of their funk and reengage the day in fun and creative ways. Sometimes it’s the invention of a new game; sometimes they finally settle into that book they’ve been meaning to read. Whatever it is, when left to their boredom, they find a way past it and into new adventures. I can’t say for sure whether it was wisdom or just being fed up that led me to leave them be. Whatever my motivation, I now see that by being too quick to step in with a list of possible activities I was robbing them of the chance to flex their imaginations and work it out on their own.
Beyond stunting their imaginations and problem-solving skills, I think I may have been feeding into an unhealthy frame of mind as well. Their problem isn’t a lack of things to do; their problem is discontentment. If the Apostle Paul can sit in a prison cell and write, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself” (Phil. 4:11), then I think my kids can suffer through a lazy afternoon. Sure, I may have a fun suggestion every now and then, but if I continually cater to their fear of boredom then I may simply be validating their discontentment.
Paul’s point is that, in “whatever circumstance,” our contentment speaks volumes about our relationship with God. Sometimes, my kids’ boredom (and the whining that accompanies it) is an opportunity to point them toward the grace and contentment found in Christ alone. Other times, we go play a game together. Either way, these are the low-key moments of discipleship in which I’m striving to be faithful.
Scott James is a pediatric doctor and a member of The Church at Brook Hills. He loves helping families grow together in Christ and is the author of several family worship devotionals and children’s books. He lives in Birmingham, Ala., with his wife and four children.
This article appears in the Dad’s Life column of the June 2019 issue of ParentLife.