This post on Modern Mrs. Darcy (In praise of being bored) reminded me of a topic I’m passionate about: boredom and “kids these days“.
Our children need never be bored because of handheld devices that can easily take up every moment of their spare time. (The same is true, of course, of adults. Long ago I created “phone hygiene” rules for myself to help me avoid the very real problem of phone addiction.)
I often tell my kids to shut their devices off when they’re in situations where boredom is natural: in the car driving a sibling somewhere, sitting in a waiting room, etc.
Because I want them to be bored.
Boredom is one of the main problems of childhood – or at least it used to be. Every adult my age remembers long hours spent in the back of a car twiddling her thumbs while mom ran errands (errands that may be eliminated today because of a little thing called ordering needful things online, thankyouLort).
There was no Starbucks run for kid’s cocoa to ease the pain, no TVs in the backs of adult headrests (sorry, I just threw up a little in my mouth).
If you remembered, you brought a dog-eared book to read. If not, you counted how many colors there were in the car, or pushed your finger repeatedly into the falling-down headliner. You daydreamed.
Those were the days when, gasp! your mom played canasta all evening with her best friend, dragging you along, giving absolutely no thought as to whether you were having fun. You were forced to play with kids you really couldn’t stand. Because canasta. (Um, can we go back to those days, just a little?)
As is so often true, my parental intuition is backed up by actual science. Turns out, a little boredom is good for us.
“… being bored can promote daydreaming, which can allow us to make new, innovative connections… boredom encourages the pursuit of new goals when a previous objective is deemed no longer interesting.”
In my house, bored is a swear word. When a child uses it, they’re likely to hear one of two things:
1) Bored people are boring
2) Great! Out of boredom comes incredible creativity!
The other day when I heard the B word, I had 10-year-old Sadie sit down and create a List of 100 Dreams. She got to the 40’s.
“Every time you feel bored, pick up this list and make a little progress on one of these things“, I said. At other times, a bored child will be assigned a chore to do around the house. After all, if you’re not inspired, at least you can be useful.
(One of the things I encouraged Sadie to do was find a penpal or two. She did, and now has a buddy in South Africa that she chats with every.single.day. Who knows what this relationship will lead to? I foresee a long plane trip to another continent in her distant future. All because she was bored one day.)
The car ride thing gets to me because driving in the car is a perfect opportunity to have conversation with your loved ones. If the kids are always on their devices, conversation doesn’t happen.
There are several years between me and my sister, and she married very young, meaning that I have no real memories of living with a sibling. My kids are in a sibling group of 7. There is always someone to play with, someone to help you when mom is busy, someone to talk to, someone to do board games with.
I didn’t have that growing up, so I had to entertain myself. And I did. I always had multiple projects going on, and when I didn’t, I went outside and rode my bike, swung on my swing, or something.
As an adult, the same is true. Boredom befuddles me. I am never bored. I now have the problem of not having enough time or energy to do all the things I wish to do.
What do you think? How do you react to the B word?