I have a few particularly vivid memories of my childhood summers: the smell of the grill, the rattle of the cicadas — and the feeling of being bored out of my mind.
While I had a relatively regimented schedule and spent long stretches of every summer at camp, there were weeks when my parents, who both worked, hadn’t filled my schedule with much of anything, and they didn’t give a hoot about whether I felt sufficiently engaged or amused.
That has been on my mind as my own sons make their way through the summer with a hodgepodge of camps, babysitters and grandparent time that is breathtakingly expensive and yet feels insufficient in terms of actual child care or stimulation.
I am hardly alone in feeling like it is my parental duty to stuff their days full of activities and learning opportunities. A study cited in a 2018 New York Times article that lamented the relentlessness of modern parenting found that regardless of education, income or race, parents believed children who are bored should be enrolled in extracurricular activities. As Erin Westgate, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Florida, explained it to me, there is a kind of cultural stigma attached to boredom, particularly in the United States.
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