June 19, 2008, Category: Family, Musings

The Long Boring Summer

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I loved summer as a kid; I dread it as a parent. At least the out of school part. Not because I don’t want the kids to have fun and get a break from school, it’s because they get so freakin’ bored and I feel responsible. I don’t remember being bored as a kid. Was I? It seems like my kids are constantly bored and I’m trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong as a parent.

I grew up in a small town surrounded by friends. There was hill after hill of Utah wilderness to explore right out of my front door. My kids live in the middle of suburbia and spend most of their time stuck indoors because of the rain and houses that fill the horizon in every direction. In addition, I don’t know many of my neighbors…there aren’t five kids of assorted ages in almost every house in the neighborhood. As a kid, I played constantly…basketball, football, rode bikes in the hills, had dirt clod wars, hunted with bb guns, and even some Dungeons and Dragons. Sometimes we’d even pack up supplies and as many as ten kids (ages 6-13) would hike several miles out of town, make a fire, cook dinner, and sleep under the stars. Just us kids.

The unknown is scary and I’m surrounded by it. I don’t know some of my kids friends. And although I know their closest ones, I don’t know most of their parents. I worry when my kids are with people I don’t know well or roam the streets like I used to roam the wilderness. My kids don’t have the foundation of religion that I did, which was pretty much the core of my life until my mid-twenties. Is it possible to raise good kids without religion? Well, my mother and father-in-law raised an incredible daughter, so I know it’s possible. And right now I have awesome children, ask anyone. But all of this is unknown to me. I’m not on familiar turf at all.

Even Ivins, Utah, where I grew up, isn’t the same anymore. Moving back there wouldn’t help. Back then, everyone knew everyone. Literally. I was thinking the other day how I’m tied to all the kids I grew up with, even the ones that didn’t like me. We all have a common bond, growing up in that small town. It’s something that can’t be explained. But what will my kids have? Will they remember a long drawn out boring childhood? Where I have fond memories will their minds be filled with sludge and misery?

The kids just spent 4 nights with me out of town on a business trip. They had a computer, movies, board games, a swimming pool, a mall across the street (but no money), books, cell phones, and TV…and they were bored out of their minds. It’s the same story at home. They get so bored. Maybe I would have been bored too as a kid with electronic entertainment everywhere I turned. Maybe it has trained them to need a constant blitzing of flashing lights that never really satisfies. I loved the computer we finally got when I was in High School, an Atari 800XL (after years of begging and pleading). But I had a lot more to go with it.

Raising families in the city isn’t anything new, it’s just new to me. I need to do a better job of it. I don’t want my kids to be bored, but maybe the game consoles, computers, TV’s, stereos, movies, and MP3 players I bought them to help remove boredom, have made it worse. Maybe they have an inner need to explore the wilderness that no amount of Halo can replace. I wish they could. I wish they had friends in every direction, like I did. Maybe I need to stop worrying about it and let them negotiate their own boredom.

Aubree wants to get into piano lessons, Curti into guitar and Mikayla has a soccer camp coming up…those are good things. My parents may come up for a week, their Aunt Misty is moving up…so there is hope for the summer. I think the core issue is that raising my kids in a completely different environment that I knew is really scary. But I love them, we spend time together and they are good kids. We really are doing fine. Now if we can just somehow slide through these last few years clean, it’ll be okay. When I hear about the troubles some have with teenagers and I look at my own…I know I’m blessed. Maybe I’m forgetting my own rough times. Now that I think about it, most of the fun times I remember were younger years, before fourteen. Although I don’t remember being bored, I know I was depressed a lot from 15-17…maybe it’s the almost the same thing. And I turned okay, for the most part. I’m sure my own troubles at that age make it extra scary to watch them go through these years. Teenage years are tough, so many changes and adjustments. Even so, I hate to see them so bored!

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6 thoughts on “The Long Boring Summer

  • By Grandma - Reply

    I understand what you are saying very well. Going back one more generation to another small town (Draper, Utah) we children enjoyed the freedom of wandering the town and the foot hills. We played ball in the streets and fields, knew everyone in town, and had a multitude of friends we felt comfortable and safe with. I didn’t have the luxury of shopping malls and easy to access city life … I was absolutely a country girl. I found pleasure in the animals on the farm and my imagination took me many places through play and day dreaming. I never remember being bored either.

    I have to admit … there are times now that I get bored. I want to have that freedom of small town living where you see a combine suppers, help each other with projects, sit around and play games and laugh with good friends … We are all too busy doing the stuff we have to do now days and that can get boring. Maybe the kids can find places to volunteer. I do think electronics has changed things a lot. Kids feel the need to be entertained easily and you can’t keep on new gadgets fast enough.

  • By Grandma - Reply

    P.S. You are a good father and do so many things with your kids that are exciting and fun. The kids need to find some things to do on their own that are rewarding … I think that is the key …

  • By Kim N - Reply

    Good post. It made me think a lot more about things that had already been on my mind off and on. I agree that all the electronics and gadgets can tend to “entertain” kids to the point that they have a hard time coming up with other things to do. I see it with my kids all the time. I unhooked the Nintendo a few weeks ago because they were fighting too much and they asked for it for about three days and since then they have not asked once to play it. They are finding enjoyment with things like a pile of rocks or a potato bug and I love it. BUT they still claim they are bored the other half of the day.

    I miss those days growing up in a small town. Brett and I talk all the time about how we would like to live in a small town like that. I know times have changed and it wouldn’t be the same, but I know there would be a lot more freedom to roam and explore than my kids have now. Being confined to a .17 acre plot of land as a kid would have driven my crazy.

    I know what you mean about worrying who your kids are with too. Luca made so many friends in school, but I hesitate to set up play times with families I don’t know. You just never know and I think it is very good to be careful at any age. I guess the answer to that is to invite them to my house…but I can only handle all the craziness once in awhile!

  • By shayna - Reply

    Cameron has told me a lot of the things that you guys use to do. The hiking and the camping. The goofing off. It is just a different time these days. I dont think I can let your kids leave the house in the morning and expect them home for dinner, knowing that they wont get into TOO much trouble. WOW, thanks for your post, I was a real thinker

  • By Stacey [Henke] Silva - Reply

    Oh yeah, things aren’t like they used to be. I remember we’d come to your house in Ivins and get there (always) at 4 in the morning or so. I loved the store behind the house – I loved everything about coming down there, how I miss the old times! It is kinda scary to think about raising kids in these times, I’m expecting our first one now – a girl – but it kind of scares me. I want the old days back sometimes!

  • By Jared Larsen - Reply

    Hey Warren! Reading this brought back a lot of memories. Like the night we laid awake in fear of being eaten alive by the bobcat that we were certain was lurking above us on the ledge…. hahahahah. it’s good that we had such a great childhood isn’t it?! Raising my kids in Albuquerque, NM has caused me to wonder about many of the same things you’ve mentioned in this post.

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