Over my years as a therapist I have spent many hours talking with teenage boys. One of the phrases that I have heard over and over again is, “this is boring.” I have heard parents complain about children who have bins full of toys, yet describe themselves as bored. How is it possible that in our society of 24/7 entertainment anyone would be bored?
I recently listened to the White Horse Inn podcast that argued boredom in our culture stems from the over abundance of entertainment. They argued that our desire to have every experience be “THE” experience cheapens the value of all experiences. Even in churches and youth ministries we are constantly searching for the next big thing. The next exciting program or activity that will draw in more kids or parents so they can know how exciting Jesus is. We take high school students to camps and mission trips filled with emotional worship, funny speakers, and really gross games.
The problem is, this is not real life. Real life is mundane, it is getting up to go to work or school everyday, it is doing the dishes, laundry, and homework. Faith is hard, church can be normal, and even Jesus was not exciting all of the time. In my opinion the problem with the “bored” children is that they have never learned to imagine. Toys don’t require imagination these days. Computer graphics create vast worlds in infinite detail, none of it imagined by the players. It is nearly impossible to find a plain lego set that can be formed into whatever a child imagines. They are all movie themed and designed to be built into some specific object. Even infant toys are full of bells, whistles, lights, and buttons.
I was pleased to sit and observe some kids developing their imaginations the other day. I felt like one of those nature photographers catching the final footage of an endangered species. I sat very quietly hoping they would not notice me, so as not to disrupt their play. They played for about an hour with nothing more than a bucket tied to a rope and water. I am not sure what they were doing but they were all fully engaged and involved. Somehow they all had a role to play but no one told them what it was. There was yelling, laughing, jumping, and running; it was great fun. They were having a true adventure.
A true adventure is not some overhyped, artificially produced experience of which we are spectators. A true adventure is something we are actively involved in. It is a path that unfolds before us based on the shared experience of family and friends.
This was not the latest and flashiest toy. It was a white bucket tied to a rope, but it lead them on a wild adventure full of excitement and joy. I hope parents will say, “let’s go on an adventure” by giving their families the time and space to imagine. Let’s cut down on some of the adult organized “exciting” activities, and begin to create our own adventures in the backyard.
How does your family find true adventure?
What toys helped you to imagine as a child?