I start every summer thinking this will be the year we avoid boredom creep.

I download chore charts from Etsy. I buy the largest box of chalk money can buy. I coordinate with other moms and create playdate schedules.

But every year, around June 15, I hear the dreaded “I’m bored.”

Look. I know boredom is good for kids. I’ve read the articles that extol the virtues of long, summer afternoons that spark creativity and imagination in young minds. I know that boredom helps children become more independent and gain a sense of responsibility for keeping themselves entertained. But I’m wondering if the people who write those articles have ever met an actual child.

Because the actual children I know don’t immediately turn their boredom into creativity. They don’t think, “Hmmm, I think I have a slight case of the doldrums. But I think I know a sufficient remedy. I shall wander to the nearby open field, gather wildflowers and fashion a crown that I shall wear as I skip home.”

Instead, the children I know look me dead in the eyes and accusingly say, “I’m bored.” To which I usually respond, “Go clean your room,” at which point they back out of the room silently and disappear for an hour then reappear with another “I’m bored,” and the cycle repeats itself.

At least this is how it’s gone for many summers in a row leading up to this one. So this year, I decided to head boredom off at the pass and I signed my children up for a million different classes, camps and lessons. But I didn’t account for them making plans of their own.

Marathon training season is here again, and I’m even more annoying than last year
At least it’s a dry heat

My kids are getting older and one of them isn’t really even a kid anymore. She’s a young teen. And like most young teens, her social life seems to be getting busier every day. So when she’s done with the classes and camps and lessons I’ve signed her up for, she’s off with friends for the evenings. She’s never bored. Because she’s never home.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Our family hit what felt like a significant milestone this year when I took my youngest to kindergarten orientation. I looked at the other moms in the room, some of them there with their babies and toddlers helping their first child get excited about school, and I realized I had become one of the older moms. I no longer carry a diaper bag or keep a stroller in the trunk of my car. My kids can get themselves in the car and fasten their own seat belts. There aren’t any sippy cups or bibs in my kitchen.

It’s liberating and wonderful. I love how we can just get up and go do things without much planning. I love how our relationships are evolving. But it’s also kind of sad.

Just a few years ago, it felt like the long summer afternoons with bored small children and toddlers were the longest afternoons of my life. It took everything I had to not glare at strangers who would say things like “You’ve got your hands full” while I pushed a double stroller through the grocery store. “It goes so fast. You’ll miss it someday,” they’d add, and I’d smile and nod while trying not to roll my eyes.

But they were right, of course. It has gone fast. And while I don’t miss the diapers or the complicated car seats or the tantrums, I do miss chubby hands holding bubble wands, and walks to the park just to have somewhere to go and being a little bit bored together.

I haven’t heard an “I’m bored” yet this summer. But I expect to toward August because I accidentally did all my over-scheduling for the first half of the summer. And when I am hit with the boredom complaint, I’ll still tell whichever kid said it to go clean their room. But I’ll also try and remember how lucky I am to have my kids around. And I’ll try to keep myself from telling the younger moms pushing strollers in the grocery store how much they’ll miss their boring, chaotic days when their children are gone. Even though I know they will.