Guilt over preteen summer boredom — FranklyStein


Jo boredI’m feeling a little mama guilt these days.

It’s summertime and my older kids are busy working, driving themselves around town, meeting friends and enjoying summer. My youngest? Not so much. As I’m writing this, he’s home alone doing who knows what while I’m at work. My summer plan for him isn’t going as planned.

I was hoping he’d spend the lazy, hazy days of summer hanging out at the pool with friends. It’s worked in past years. He and his friends — whoever was there — would play sharks and minnows, ping pong, wall ball, whatever. It was fun. He was happy.

But this year, there seems to be fewer friends hanging at the pool. Some are at camp, some are on vacation, some are just not going to the pool anymore. Maybe they are all growing out of sharks and minnows and wall ball. After a few hours, he texts that he’s bored and could someone come and pick him up? Yesterday, he didn’t want to go at all.

He spent a week at swim camp and loved it, but we don’t have a budget for camps all summer long. I was lucky with the older kids when they were preteens. The pool plan worked for them. They hung out in posses. When they got bored, they would walk to 7-Eleven, the local pizza joint or the snowball stand. Jonah’s posse of years past isn’t doing that. Those who are at the pool are on their screens — at least that’s what he tells me. He would be too if he wasn’t worried about using up all our data.

It makes me sad. Sad that he’s missing out on the unstructured summer fun of years past. Sad that he’s growing up, and sad that screens are the automatic default for these kids. Just a few years ago, when my older kids were his age, the didn’t have smart phones. They had to interact and figure out their own fun. These days, when kids get bored, they don’t make their own adventures, they pull out their cell phones and start watching Youtube videos. It never occurs to them to do anything else.

I’m also feeling guilty that I don’t have a backup plan for his summer. We have a vacation scheduled but other than that, I’ve got nothing. I can’t take him on day trips and outings because I have to work. And I’m not sure he really wants to hang out with me anyway.

So far, he’s blown through half the Harry Potter series and finished a couple of puzzles in the hours he’s banned from the screen. All good stuff but the summer is barely half over. I’m wracking my brain for other creative ways to fill his days. I’ll let you know if I come up with anything.

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FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Life editor Betsy Stein, who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 18, Lilly, 16, Adam, 16, and Jonah, 12.