If you’re a parent, do you ever hear this? It blows my mind. I don’t ever remember telling my parents that I was bored growing up. I don’t even remember being bored when I was a child. Obviously, times have changed.
I grew up in a family where both my parents worked. We had a babysitter come over, a distant family relative–honestly, to this day, I don’t know how she was related–but she was an older lady and all she would do for the entirety of the day was sit in the plush green chair in our living room. Her name was Renee and I rarely remember seeing her do anything else but sit in the chair. I wonder if my parents knew how much free reign we had…?
Not that there was much trouble I could get into. Sometimes I snuck into the kitchen for some cookies, but Renee had sharp ears and a willing hand to smack an unruly bottom. Either way, autonomy worked fine for me. I played a lot of GI Joe’s with my younger brothers. Sometimes we played Lego’s. Or I would play dolls or Barbies with my older sister, or go ride bikes or jump in puddles with my friends. We rarely watched any TV until I was older, and we weren’t allowed to own video game systems until after my parents divorced when I was 15.*
My imagination was my playground. We had a decent sized backyard where I could imagine anything, with big trees, lots of space and a very nice Labrador named Max. My siblings and I were almost always outside growing up, fair or foul weather. It was great, in the way that childhood can be. My childhood wasn’t always so peachy, but.. that’s for another time.
So when my children come up to me and complain that they’re bored, all I can do is stare at them with a combination of consternation and mild disgust. Kids these days (never thought I’d use those words…) have too many electronics at their disposal, and MY kids probably have entirely too much exposure to it. So when I tell them it’s time for ALL electronics to be off, they slink around the house like limp noodles, moaning that they’re bored. They’re like zombies that can only survive if they can suck all the energy out of the TV or Xbox, etc.
“Use your imaginations!” I throw up my hands at them. And still, they look at me like I’m supposed to suddenly sprout horns and juggle for them. Since both of my parents worked, I try to spend time with my children when I can. I play with them, but I don’t expect to be at their behest all the time. I love them, but there’s only so many rounds of Tickle Monster I can play.
Every Sunday, we have a “no video games” day, and the only TV they’re allowed to watch are nature documentaries or mild Disney movies, mwahahaha. We do this for many reasons. 1. is to keep the Sabbath Day holy, because that’s what we believe in our house, and 2. to take a break from the constant influx of noise, colors, and distractions.
So once in a while, I like to label a random day “NO electronics.” Once again, I get that, “why are you torturing us?” Bambi-eyed accusation tossed my way, but I don’t care. I point out all the things that they can do with their time, mostly trying to point them toward creativity. Sometimes it works, sometimes they follow me around like lost ducklings until I lock myself in the bathroom with some dark chocolate.
Ok, no I don’t really eat chocolate in the bathroom …much.
I finally got to the point where I told my children that the word, “Bored” is a bad word in our house. Any time they come to me and tell me they’re bored, I get to assign them a random chore right then and there, and they HAVE to do it. It’s great, especially because they still haven’t learned not to use that word in front of me! Hilarious!
Someday, maybe they’ll learn not to use the B-word in front of me, but for now, I’m quite satisfied with the way things have turned out. Free chores FTW.
*My dad bought an Atari and I remember playing Frogger on it once or twice and then it disappeared forever. Probably because we fought over it, or something? It’s a mystery. I don’t regret it, however. I’m grateful for my imagination.