I teach Sunday school on the side, and there is this one kid, Trisha*, who can be really annoying. After all the typical Sunday morning events are done, I sometimes stick around for the youth choir practice in the afternoon. This kid is there too. She's a sweet kid; smart and gets along well with others. Nevertheless, this one phrase can be found coming out of her mouth:
"I'm bored. There's nothing to do."
And she always comes to me about this. As if she expects me to entertain her like a TV program. When there is something more interesting, I'm out of sight and out of mind. But when she's in B.O.R.E.D. mode, she comes whining to me.
"Bring a book," I say. "You have your DS, right?" I ask. No, she didn't bring a book. Yes, she has her DS but that's boring too.
Kid, if I had a DS, I could entertain myself for DAYS with Animal Crossing Wild World alone.
Sometimes I play foosball, or soccer, with her. Sometimes we just talk. Sometimes we play with my digital camera, or laptop, if I happen to have them on me. She's a cool kid to hang around with.
But a lot of the time, I'm already wiped out from teaching during the week, and my own classes, and teaching all that morning, plus all the other stupid political stuff that happens in a traditional church like my home church (this is why I have an abhorrence for churches now - I only go to help out the handful of people who seem to be doing all of the work), plus life in general is pretty tiring and I'm beginning to feel the effects of being on the other side of a quarter century. And I work with kids all week, it's nice to have some grown-up time too.
She's not the issue here though. The issue is: children! Get it into your heads that you have the power to not be bored! Find something to do if you are! Take the initiative for goodness sake! Like this kid, or this kid, who decided to choose something for themselves and accomplished something bigger than themselves.
Ok, I'm being a little unfair here. Trisha is only a third grader, not a late-teen on the verge of becoming legal. But still. I don't remember being so reliant on adults for sources of things to do. I brought books with me wherever I went. Later, I brought my homework too. I explored outside and in. Trisha, do you have any idea where all those great hiding places in that church building are There are no less than 16 different ways to get in and out of the building alone, two of which have roof access and half of which I can no longer fit through!
Is it us, the adults? As a kid, I played with fire and handled knives by the age of six. Climbed fences and roofs and buildings and trees and rocks. All of which most adults nowadays would forbid children from doing. And Trisha is a pretty obedient kid. I kind of wish she was a little less so for her own sake.
Is there such a thing as over protection? I think so. No, I don't want an accident to happen. We took the Sunday school students to a local park for a picnic recently. Trisha wanted to go to the playground area. I gave her permission. But she ended up not going. She said she didn't want to be kidnapped.
The playground area was within sight from our picnic table. There were lots of other kids and parents around that day. She would have the other Sunday school kids go with her too. She carries a cell phone in her pocket all the time, and she knows my cell number as well as the other Sunday school teacher's. I trusted that she would make the right choices if a stranger did go up to her and try to take her away. Still, she didn't go and ended up sitting around, when she really wanted to go play, on a gorgeous day at the park.
Maybe bored isn't the right word to describe this. Do adults have too much fear? Is it affecting kids in a negative way? Or is this one case, a personality thing? When does a teacher push their students to do more, be more? And when do I tell them it's ok to hang out on the safe side for a while?
Maybe that's it: it's ok to be safe sometimes, and it's ok to go out on the church roof and freak yourself out with vertigo every so often.