Is it really boredom?
It’s a probing question, one raised by my soul sister Angie in a comment on my post When Mom Gets Bored.
She said – and I quote – “This makes a lot of sense. I would never have pegged it as boredom, though. I look around in those moments and see all I NEED to do (housework stuff), things I SHOULD do (play with my kids) and see all the stuff I WANT to do that definitely needs to take a backseat (reading, blogging, FB, crafts, redecorating...). I find myself feeling so selfish and cranky that I don't get to do what *I* want to do. Isn't that loving of me? So instead of bored, I think it's restless.”
Yes! Restless. The dictionary defines restless as “constantly moving or unable to be still” (the same definition for Mother of a Toddler, by the way) or “discontented, seeking a change.” That’s a better description of the annoyance I feel when I’m trapped inside with my kids, without a plan and without the ability to do anything without at least one child standing at my elbow, whining.
So. How do I cope? Here are my tried-and-true methods.
1. First and foremost, I get out of the house. I pack all the kids in the minivan and we drive. Ideally, we head to a park or a nature center for some free play. But Target will do, if the weather isn’t cooperating. I’ve even been known to swing through McDonald’s for smoothies or a strawberry lemonade (what I wouldn’t give for a Jamba Juice to move into our neighborhood) and then just drive around one of the area lakes or through the surrounding countryside, looking for horses. A simple change of scenery does wonders for our collective attitudes. Bonus: There’s a good chance one or both of The Littles will fall asleep while we drive.
2. Dance. Push the clutter to the side, turn on some Laurie Berkner or "Philadelphia Chickens"or Jack Johnson and throw a dance party. It will probably be met with resistance from at least one child, but I’ve found music and a playful spirit – even for a few minutes – will usually break the cycle of whining crankiness. Bonus: If you can sneak some “Love Shack” into the mix, you’re golden.
3. This one is very me. You might roll your eyes a little. But I’m sharing it anyway. You know those montage sequences in movies? My favorite is the changing season montage from “Notting Hill,” because it’s freaking brilliant. But there are many examples. So here’s what I do: I just imagine my life, right then, in its current state, as a movie montage. Maybe it would be a comedy, like a sequence out of “Cheaper by the Dozen.” Or maybe it’s would be a slice of life, like that scene in “Breakfast Club” where the kids try to escape detention. Or maybe a training sequence like the classic from “Dirty Dancing.” Whatever. I just imagine my life as a movie and I pick the appropriate music to play via Pandora or my iPod. And I get some perspective on the restless chaos around me. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so drab. It seems almost exciting. Bonus: If I’m living a montage sequence, I know the happy ending is just around the corner.
4. Turn off the electronica. This one applies to me as much as the kids. When I don’t have a set plan for the day – or something stops me from accomplishing my goals – I turn into a social media addict, looking for a drug to divert me from the drudgery of my day. And I’ve noticed my irritation level directly corresponds to the number of times I check Twitter in a 60-minute period. The problem, I think, is that social media distracts. I am not present. The more I’m present, the less I’m annoyed with my children being children. The less I’m consumed by accomplishing my To Do List. When I’m present, I’m thankful. I’m at peace. The quotidian comes alive and is colored by God’s grace. Bonus: I’m reminded of what’s eternal in my life – and it’s the people.
5. I grab my Siesta Scripture Memory notebook and review the verses I'm committing to memory. I often do it in the center of my kitchen, surrounded by dirty dishes and milk that was left on the counter and a highchair crusted with Cheerios and cheese. But I believe God’s word is “active and alive in me.” (Believing God siestas, can’t I get a shout out?) It’s amazing what His truth does to my heart and mind. I’m renewed. Bonus: God’s word inside of me.
Those are my tips. Got any to add? What do you do when you’re restless and alone with kids? (Besides scream, eat chocolate or drive to Starbucks for an venti coconut mocha Frappuccino. Those are obvious.)