Camp Bored

By Cindy Koch

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We sat on our longboards on the quiet glassy ocean this morning. The fog was still low and misting on my freshly waxed 9-footer. The salty sea air stood still, and we could only hear the gentle crash of rolling waves on the rocks at Solimar beach. Paul & I would glance at each other every once in a while, to see who would turn and take the next wave. Scanning the peaceful early horizon, we were the only two surfers in the water.

But, we saw the vans when we drove in this morning. In the summer, they hover above the rocks, waiting, watching. About 10am, we noticed the shore begin to swarm with little black figures. From the distance beyond the break of the waves we couldn’t hear them, but we could see them.  Kids of all sizes, in their brand new wetsuits, formed into groups around their leader and took over the beach. Because, big white vans parked at a little point break mean only one thing: surf camp.

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Your town may be different, but around here summertime is the prime time for camps and experiences of all kinds. There is Lego camp, horseback riding camp, swimming camp, math camp (poor kids), tennis camp, and the list goes on and on. The activities and opportunities for my children is incredible. But now that I think about it, the activities don’t stop when school is in session. Beginning in the fall is a new schedule of ballet, art lessons, football, swim team, acting, and everything else you can imagine. There is something for our children to do to fill every second of their existence.

Why do we go to such lengths? Why do we spend so much money? Why do we try so hard to involve our kids in these extra-curricular activities? Johnny might not survive his adult life if he has never paddled in a canoe. Sally could end up working the streets in Vegas if she doesn’t have that “team” experience.

I think we are afraid that our children will be bored. Somehow, in our crazy over-parented culture we have drawn lines from boredom, to delinquency, to failure. When kids are not busy, we all know what happens… And see, just there. How did your mind fill in the blank? When kids are bored they will go find trouble. If your child finds trouble, what does that say about you as a parent? You have failed.

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There is an immense amount of pressure to be a good parent, as there should be. But what makes one successful at parenting? Activity planning? Your child’s achievements? How about character building? Maybe even allowing boredom to be a regular part of a child’s life?

When kids are bored they find their passions. The musically inclined might travel over to the piano, and plunk out a tune. The adventurous may grab his bike and build a ramp in the backyard with bricks and wood. The creative one may invent a contraption in the kitchen. Back in the day, we did not attend surf camps. When I was a bored teenager, I had time to go to the beach with an old beat up surfboard and a friend. We caught wave after wave, tumbling headfirst into the sand (and scaring away all the little children). It took me a while to stand up, to feel how to turn that boat, and then a long while to drag the big thing back to the car. It took drive and persistence to keep going back, even when it was early or the water was cold.

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We all want our children to be excellent individuals, loving what they do and doing what they love. There is nothing wrong with an intense camp experience. But it can be so much easier (and cheaper) than signing the kiddos up for another session. Boredom is not on Ms. Soccer Mom’s top 10 coolest camp list, but the time to explore and figure it out is the greatest “camp” you can give any child.

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