“Mama! I’m BORED!!!”
Tis that time of year when days on end of gift-giving and holiday adventures and too much sugar and visiting relatives who will play card games with you for hours on end are over but “Christmas Break” (a break for whom, I ask) looms ahead like a vast wasteland of toys that break or run out of batteries or are cast aside without ever even being removed from their “frustration free (my ass) packaging” and weather so cold that one can only play outside in half hour increments.
It’s enough to drive a mama to drink. Seriously…why are all these bottles EMPTY?!
But the moment I hear those words uttered (more like whiiiiiiiiiiined) from my first born, I hear my mom's voice in my head. Boredom is important. Boredom is necessary. Boredom is your friend.
And it is really true.
We tend to hyper-schedule our kids. We tend to jump when they say they’re bored - cause we don’t want to hear the whining, I guess. But necessity is the mother of invention, ya’ll, and if you can weather the whining and calmly suggest that your solution to her boredom will be housecleaning and/or math problems unless she finds a way to entertain herself, she’ll do it. And once she gets into her room (the furthest distance from you and that bucket of Pine Sol water you were about to hand her) she will start applying her imagination…after some requisite pouting, of course. But I pretend not to notice that.
My parents were lovely people. They adored me and they kept me fed and clothed and safe. But they did not feel it was their job to entertain me at all. And I was not signed up for various classes after school (did such a thing even exist back then?) As a result, I had lots of hours to fill and no one to help me out – and thus, my room became a place of great adventure. Sometimes my bed was a moving train onto which I (and my four children….whom I single-parented…foreshadowing, ya’ll!) would have to leap. We made it, barely, each time. Sometimes one of the children would slip and I would grab her arm and pull her to safety as only a devoted mama can. Whew!
Sometimes my room was a classroom where I taught 4th grade…for hours. When I was proctoring a test, there would sometimes be 20 minutes of silence as I sat at my desk and did paperwork. How is it that my parents never came in to check on me? 20 minutes of silence? That would terrify me if Pip was in the house.
And there were two plastic stackable tables and some Kleenex boxes that would become a Barbie dream house and - you guys! – the drama that would play out between Malibu Barbie and Ballerina Barbie…or Ballerina Barbie and Malibu Ken…OH! Epic, it was. Truly epic. And on the other side of the bed/mountain lived Jane West and her daughter and their 15 Breyer horses. And when the city folks met the country folks, sparks would fly, baby.
As I got older, things got a little sexy in the plastic table dream house. Life in the country still revolved around horses (Jane West’s clothing can’t be removed…and she’s fairly unattractive) but there was some serious sexual awakening happening with the city folks. I’m still a little turned on by Ken. And the storylines became more involved and more scandalous. The stories went on for weeks…serial-like. My room was better than Days of Our Lives.
And, many years later, I became a playwright. I don’t think that’s coincidence. Do you?
Just as long-distance runners have to break through the cramps and the desire to quit to get to that zone that I have heard about but never experienced because I hate to run with a sort of passion that can almost be seen radiating from me by the naked eye, a kid has to break past the whining-and-kicking-listlessly-at-your-furniture stage of boredom to get to the zone where they can invent new worlds. And sometimes that process is painful for their parents. Resist the urge to drop what you’re doing and set up a new craft or play Candyland again…and again…until you choose to scratch out your own eyes when relegated back to that damn gingerbread square just when you were about to win and blissfully end that mindless torture game.
I’ll tell you something else that I never tell anyone. My kids watch a fair amount of TV. If it becomes excessive I turn it off but my threshold for what might be considered excessive is fairly high by today’s standards. I was allowed unlimited TV time when I was a kid. It was the 70’s – that kind of thing wasn’t frowned upon then. So I watched TV. I also played outside and made my Barbies have intercourse and played with friends…every activity has its unique place in our development. I just don’t think that TV – as long as it’s age-appropriate – is a bad thing. You can send me indignant comments about that if you want. Just today, Bunny said “I don’t like it when funny shows play that music that means drama or suspense. They make it seem like there is going to be a lot of emotion or something big is going to happen and then, after the commercial, it turns out to be something silly.” That’s a pretty good discovery about dramatic structure and suspense building. I don’t know how much she can learn about writing or story-telling technique from “Dog With A Blog” but, by god, if there is information to be gleaned from something, Bunny is gonna suss it out.
If you are a parent, I know you're hearing it. “I’m bored. I’m BORED. I’m so bored I could just DIE.” (Bunny has a flair for the dramatic – where the heck does she get that?) My unsolicited advice is that you practice a little benign neglect. You might get your blog post written…which is nice. (All us moms have a blog, right? Isn't it requisite?) What the kids will get from it might amaze you some day.
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