Ask Maxwell: How Do I Entertain the Kids, Find Fun Things to do and Just Reinvigorate as a Parent?

published Jan 17, 2022
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Credit: Maxwell Ryan
Ursula at the MoMA relaxing around in 2011. Now, at 15, she won't go to a museum with me, but back then she'd get up and go anywhere as long as we kept moving.

I live with my husband and three young children in the northwest corner of the state of Arkansas. The kids fill our days with parenting responsibilities: school, extracurricular activities, meals, and bedtime. On the weekends, I look for parks, libraries, and other places of interest. But I’ve run out of ideas and am just bored with where I live. Add in the pandemic and my mid-40s slump and I’m mind-numbingly bored. Plus our weather changes day to day! How do I entertain the kids, find fun things to do and just reinvigorate as a parent?

Annie in Arkansas

Dear Annie,

I totally hear you and will admit that it’s a stretch to answer this one because I’ve got one 15-year-old and I didn’t go through the early childhood years in this crazy pandemic. It’s a challenge!

The main thing I’m going to say is to focus on yourself and your own reinvigoration. If you are happy, your kids will be happy — even if you only open a can of soup for dinner each night. As they say when you get on an airplane, “Put your own mask on first, and then put it on your child.” There’s no other way around it. 🙂

So let’s reinvigorate you!

What would you like to do that you could drag your kids along to? I used to take my daughter on rainy Saturday mornings to MoMA in Midtown right as they opened at 10 a.m. and she couldn’t care LESS about what we were seeing, but she’d run around and play with the shadows and I was reinvigorated every time. Of course, we never stayed long and kept moving, but it was great. It was for ME, but she was a good partner.

I really encourage dragging your kids around to things that will invigorate you and that also keep them moving. Reading a book or painting a picture will never work, but going shopping, doing chores, going to see a friend — the more you can fold them into your life and balance how much you are folded into their life, the better. They will get used to it and your energy will carry them to be good companions.

Another way to look at is that it is VERY NORMAL to be — as you say — in a “mid-40s slump” with three wonderful kids spanning the ages of 4 to 10 years! It’s a lot. Children’s energy is great, but it also sucks energy from the parent, so you can definitely run low. Make sure to refill your batteries every day. Exercise is key. Carving out quiet “me” time in the early morning or at night is key. Scheduling regular “date nights” with your partner is key.

And BOREDOM! What do we do with boredom? More than anything it’s good to look at this as a mood and not a solid object. Kids can easily be bored one minute and then engrossed in something the next minute. I really think this can melt away if other things are in place.

One last thing: the winter pandemic months stuck in the house. These have been the hardest. It might work or it might not, but see if you can find a project inside your house that would really give you joy — anything crafty or physical that will allow you to do it while your kids are roaming around the house dealing with their own boredom. When my daughter was younger, I used to be doing all sorts of little improvements and decorating projects that were fun for me, good for the house, and she never bothered me once. Kids like you to be nearby, but they don’t need you to entertain them all the time. They can figure that out for themselves when they need to.

Good luck. I’m afraid that I’ve not been terribly helpful, but give it all a go, check out this resource I wrote about a few months back and let me know where you get to in a few months.

Best, M

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Maxwell Ryan is a father and was an elementary school teacher in NYC before founding Apartment Therapy. He’d love to answer your question: This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids.

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