Children can entertain themselves, if given a proper push
Once upon a time, children entertained themselves, and that was before video games, DVDs and wide-screen TVs.
How did we do it? We read. We went outside to play. We stayed inside and made up our own games and stories.
In short, we used our imaginations.
Now, children expect to be entertained. And who are the entertainers? We are.
Oh, sure, we may actually bring children somewhere to be entertained by someone else. We may check out Chuck E. Cheese and endure the insanity, or schlep to the movie theater to take in the latest blockbuster or bound over to the bowling alley to play a few frames.
But it’s always we adults who need to satisfy children’s unquenchable thirst for entertainment. It’s rare children are expected to fend for themselves.
“I'm bored!” — that standard complaint of childhood has become, under our watch, not a plaintive cry of desperation, but an urgent nightstick of necessity. And we are the ones getting clubbed.
Our children know the one thing we can’t stand is the idea they are not being properly stimulated. From Baby Mozart tapes to ballet lessons to cell phones, we’ve got to keep satisfying their needs lest the little ones fall behind other junior geniuses.
But maybe, just maybe, our parents had it right. Maybe the worst thing we can do for our children is make sure they’re entertained at all times.
As I look back on my own childhood, I realize my imagination blossomed thanks to boredom. Out of necessity, since my father banned television at an early age, my siblings and I were forced into a life of pretend play in the back yard: stuffed-animal tea parties, drawn-out skirmishes and frivolous fantasies.
The possibilities were limited only by our imaginations, and our fantasy life seemed only to expand the longer we played.
Now, my children rarely go out to play — a loss partly tied to concerns regarding strangers and cars, but mostly connected to the fact few other kids are out playing, as well.
Children stay inside, limbs splayed over chairs and couches in various unnatural ways, playing video games, using the Internet, listening to their MP3s, calling on their cell phones, text messaging or watching one of their 104 TV channels.
They’re being bombarded by messages all the time, but when do they have time to express themselves to figure out who they are?
Certainly not when they catch the latest episode of one of the many trashy reality TV shows, slay a creature in “Final Fantasy,” try to figure out the half-bleeped-out words of a Kanye West song or catch the latest YouTube antics of Britney Spears.
So this spring, let’s make a pact and do ourselves and our kids a favor. Let’s promise not to give into the “I'm bored” complaint and rush out to find the latest gadget guaranteed to keep the kids happy for a couple hours.
Instead, let’s do what our parents did. Kick the kids out of the house and let them figure out how to entertain themselves.
Maybe, just maybe, your children and mine will discover a dash of ennui early on can lead to a lifetime of enlightenment. Now that would be entertaining.
Contact Sharma Howard at email@example.com.