My son tends to ask random questions at bedtime. I figure it’s because we’re not distracted by other things and everything has quieted down. The other day, as he was climbing into bed, he said, “Mom, when I get bored sometimes, I don’t understand why I am alive. What is my purpose in life? What am I supposed to do?”
At first I’ll admit I was startled by the “I don’t understand why I am alive” comment, worrying that my son was questioning whether he should BE alive. But I took a deep breath and realized my son was asking about the purpose of life. This is a brand new question from him and I had to think on my feet! Here’s what I said:
“That’s a great question, and one you’ll probably be asking yourself for as long as you live — I know I do. It’s one of the great mysteries, really. We all wonder why we’re here and if we’re meant to do something. But the truth is that this is something we each discover as we go along in our lives. The things you are learning and doing now will help you find your purpose later. One thing I can say is that each of us here to further along the human experience. We learn from all those who came before us, and the next generation — your generation — will have learned more and can build upon that to do greater things.”
I kept my answer short, knowing I could easily overwhelm him. This seemed to satisfy him, and he drifted off to sleep. But I’ve been thinking about it ever since. My son is not a particularly deep kid, or so it would seem. Now I am not so sure. And I wonder what other sorts of questions are rumbling around his head.
I found it particularly interesting that he mentioned boredom. This question came at the tail end of his first week of summer vacation — he was home all day, no camp, no outside activities. Just TV, games, bike riding, crafts, and cooking experiments in the kitchen. Pretty much his dream life, only — of course — he got bored. A lot. I gave him extra chores and started him on a Minecraft Homeschool program, but he was still at loose ends.
But without getting bored, would he have considered this question? Without being bored, would he strive to find the things he really enjoys? This is a great argument for allowing some boredom in a child’s life. I distinctly recall feeling bored often as a child, and I also know that I went and invented a whole lot of crazy ideas and schemes just to avoid boredom. And it’s those crazy things that lead me to the person I am today, a person with a purpose and a passion in life. For I, too, hate to be bored.
So I want my son to get bored, seek out things to do that interest him, and ask questions. I won’t pretend this makes my life easier, but I think it will make my son’s life better.