Family Activities With School-aged Kids: Is She Bored, or Am I?

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My kindergartner is interested in chapter books. She wants to go swimming and roller skating. She has the attention span required to sit through a play or movie.

I'm shaking with anticipation.

The problem? When she was just a wee tot, I had no expectation that my family time would be spent doing anything remotely interesting to me. I knew all of my colors and the entire alphabet, and anything she wanted to watch on television would inevitably make me want to stick a fork in my eye. I love my daughter, and I hate kid activities.

Fast-forward to 2010. We are on the cusp of being able to do things I enjoy for long periods of weekend time. There may even come a time when we are able to watch television together without me wanting to scream. She's awfully close with Cake Boss. The problem? The things I truly love are not developmentally appropriate ... yet.

She can't swim without me keeping a close eye on her, so I can't yet read a book while sunning myself at the pool or race her to the water slides. She loves Beverly Cleary, but we can't read our books together yet because she still has to ask about the words she can't quite figure out. I would never let her watch Lost or even look at my blog anymore now that she can read. She is, after all, five, not fifteen. The things I write on Twitter are not for her eyes at this juncture.

While I'm now able to do things I found impossible when she was a toddler (take a shower uninterrupted/let her play outside alone/leave electronics on the floor), it's like this little taste of my former life has left me as unsatisfied as a rice cake when you're craving Death by Chocolate. It was one thing to accept that weekends would be spent watching a three-year-old navigate the preschool section of the children's museum or pushing a stroller around the zoo for the 3,000 time, but it's completely another to realize you can go to the amusement park but you can't yet ride the roller coasters. It's hard to step right up to the edge of my interests and stop, gazing out at the steepest sledding hill or docked sailboat or R-rated movie and wondering when I'll be able to combine "family time" and "Rita time."


Vegas or Bust


Don't get me wrong. I do take my time to pursue my interests, but it's not part of "family time." If I'm pursuing my interests, I'm doing it alone or there's a babysitter involved. I'm not going to expose my girl to television or movies that aren't age-appropriate. I'm not taking my baby to a bar. I won't force her to sit for hours and watch me do something I like to do. But I admit, I can't wait for the day when my family chooses a movie that we all want to see or a vacation that is not couples-only or severely muted in terms of relaxation.

I was talking to another mother at an elementary-school thing recently, and she was going on and on about how fun kids' activities are. I must've been looking at her like she'd grown horns, because she abruptly exited the conversation. I used to feel very guilty that I don't enjoy making things out of popsicle sticks or riding kiddie rides or reading 99% of picture books, but I've made peace with my adult interests. I prefer spicy food. I like live music that sometimes contains profanity. I like Bill Maher. I have The Complete Kama Sutra on my bookshelf and also How We Die. There were many years of my early adulthood when I wanted to have my tubes tied because I thought how could someone who hates kid activities have kids?

And you know? I don't know. It just works. I love seeing her happy, so I ingested the chicken nuggets and listened to The Backyardigans. But now, oh, now! I want more.

She's almost there. But I have to remind myself that just because I'm bored doesn't mean that she is. And this is her childhood, not mine. There will be plenty of time to while away in bookstores with her later.

I'm Not Alone

  • Bored parents even have their own Facebook group.
  • Adair Lara writes at Grandparents.com that she even finds her grandchildren boring:
    God, I love them! God, their games are boring! I have actually caught myself repeating to my husband something funny that Maggie said — like, "I don't like the coldestness of snow but I like the whitedness" — and enjoying it more in the telling than in the moment I heard it.
  • Taffy Brodesser-Akner writes at Babble about her hatred of the park:
    At the park, we're Trance Parents. We zone out in an effort to endure the long hours spent watching, not able to do what we want or what would keep us active. Very few of us can stay fascinated by our children during all their waking moments.

Which is worse? Being bored with little-kid activities or standing at the edge of your real interests with your school-aged kids who aren't quite ready to fully immerse themselves?

Rita Arens writes at Surrender Dorothy and BlogHer and is the editor of Sleep is for the Weak. She is BlogHer's assignment and syndication editor.

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