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Dana's Wise Mother
From: Dana in OKC

My mom was very creative with us when we were young, and she knew how to bust our boredom. Let me rifle through the file cabinet in my brain and see what I can recall...

Year-round we had to "lease" the TV knob (remember knobs? This was before remote controls) from her by maintaining our chores as well as "other duties as assigned" (which could be anything from read a particular book she thought was useful, to mowing the neighbor's yard). We could watch television just about any time we wanted to, when we had the "currency" to "lease" the knob for a specified amount of time. It was all spelled out and was just the way our hose worked.

We were fined for saying the words "I'm bored". Mom kept a "help wanted" bulletin board in the laundry room. She wrote down things that needed to be done and we could choose a job off the board if we wanted to earn some extra money or a certain privilege. Every time "I'm bored" came out of my mouth, she would silently walk to the board, stand in front of it as though in deep contemplation, and ceremoniously hand me a card off the board. The job listed on the card had to be completed, to HER satisfaction and with NO compensation (monetary or otherwise). All other options for activities were suspended until the job card was turned in and the job was inspected. In other words, I couldn't just say, "Oh, sorry Mom! I didn't mean it. I think I'll go practice piano or read a book or call a friend or roller skate or try out a new hairstyle or sit on my bed and gaze at my navel..." The only two options at that point were do the job or sit and stare into blank space. She never raised so much as an eyebrow. That was just how it was. If I wanted to read or use the phone or sunbathe, I had to do the job first.

I am pretty stubborn, and once I sat on a job for two days. I was not even allowed to eat because I hadn't completed my job. I got water and had bathroom access (for the call of nature baths or showers). I didn't dare say anything negative, because I knew I'd just get another card, but I thought she'd at least have to feed me. She just cheerfully said, "If a man does not work, neither shall he eat" (2 Thes. 3:10). "As soon as you finish that job, I hope you'll join us at the table. See you then, Honey!" Well, needless to say, I broke down and did the hateful job (weed the front flower bed) and I was never so happy to see a bowl of Cheerios in my entire life. I believe that was also the last time I ever said, "I'm bored!"

I also remember that Mom encouraged us to make short-term service commitments in the summer. She would help us find different opportunities, some to earn money, some just as pure service. I house-sat for a week when I was 15 (just went over every day to take in the paper and mail, let the dog out and so on), I baby sat, cleaned the church, sorted baby clothes at the Women's shelter and so on. Mom would suggest that we enlist a friend in our little service projects. That made it pretty fun. Most of the jobs were for a week or less, so I had a lot of different things to do in the summer.

Another fun part of summer was the day trips Mom would take us (and one friend apiece) on. We would get out a map and some travel brochures and take turns picking free or inexpensive places to go that were within a certain driving distance. We would usually pack our own food and head out early in the morning. We saw a lot of great stuff that was "right in our own backyard". It seems like we took about one of those a month (3 trips per summer).

Mom enjoyed writing and wanted us to, too, so she started "dialogue journals" with us. We each had our own spiral notebook. In it, she would write the date and ask a question such as, "What do you remember most about last Christmas?" Then we would write our answer. The answer had to be at least three paragraphs. We could also ask her questions if we wanted to, and she would answer them. Those journals are among my most cherished possessions today, and I carry on this tradition, and many others, with my own children.

Another summer writing project she gave us was to hand write a short note of encouragement to everyone on our family's Christmas card list. We might write one or two notes every day or so. It only took a few minutes. It seemed pretty lame at the time, but looking back, I see the value in it: thinking of others and how to encourage them, honing writing skills and developing personal discipline. She would look over the notes and comment on style and content. She would talk to us about the person we were writing to that day and give suggestions on what kinds of things to say. A lot of the people were older relatives that lived out of state. It was a good way to get to know some of our extended family. Many times we got notes back, and that was always exciting. And Mom made sure that we always answered our mail, so sometimes the correspondence could get quite long.

We also had a list of Summer Big Jobs, and on Saturdays in the summer, the whole family would devote 2 hours to a Summer Big Job. Some jobs were so big they took several Saturdays, and some didn't quite take the whole two hours, so we would get off easy. It was amazing what a whole family working together could acomplish in just two hours. I remember not minding it too much, because there was an end in sight. At the end of two hours we were done with the Big Job for the week.

And this brings us to the end of Boredom Busters, Volume I. I hope my little trip down memory lane sparks some ideas that will Bust Summer Boredom in your house.


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