Wednesday, June 19, 2013
"I'm Bored!" Three Reactions Parents Have to This Sentiment
So it's the second day of summer vacation and you suddenly hear something that makes you want to smack the wall.
It's your kid and she stands there in front of you and whines, "I'm bored!"
What?! You are certain that your child has taken up a new language, one you don't quite understand.
"I'm bored." With a pair of sad eyes focused on you, she slumps into an armchair, looking like she just might cry.
Your blood boils, your blood pressure rises and you sputter, "What? How? Why?"
There are three reactions parents have when the words "I'm bored" are said to them by an offspring.
First, looming large, is their reaction of guilt. Oh, no, parents think. What is wrong with me? I haven't provided enough for my child. If we had more money then she would be able to go to that wildlife camp in Alaska and have the time of her life. If I wasn't working a fifty-hour week, I could take her to the mall every day. If only . . .
The next reaction parents hold after hearing this line and feeling guilty is one of complete disbelief. "How can you be bored?" asks the mother who is working two jobs to support her family and wishing for just an hour to sit and do nothing. This mother would almost sell her gift certificate for the nail salon just for the opportunity to feel bored (but not quite because her nails are nasty and she would like to have them looking nice in case she does ever get the chance to lie on the beach and do absolutely nothing). "How can you be bored?" this mother repeats as visions of what she'd love to find time to do dance through her head.
Which brings us to the final reaction parents have and perhaps the best one. "You're bored." Calmly stated. No rise in tone of voice or blood pressure. "Good. This is a time for you to learn that from boredom comes creativity." And the father or mother goes into a long discourse about when he or she was a teen and experienced this so-called boredom during the lazy days of summer.
One mother I know well has even been known to say to her children, "Being bored is not at all a bad thing. Growing up in Japan away from all my American friends in a remote area, I learned how to handle my boredom. I learned to cook, to write stories, and my brother and I even invented our own radio show. We called it Talk a Mile a Minute and recorded each episode on a cassette recorder. It was a spoof on the Japanese radio shows that promised music but talked more than they played music." (This particular mother's teen-aged children are so sure she is wacko that they would rather be bored to tears than listen to her go on about those old days. They silently recant to their rooms.)
So this summer, when your kids say they are bored, say, "Good. You will appreciate what you gain from this experience when you are older. This is the time to discover the artist within, the writer, the reader, the dancer, and the chef." And if that doesn''t send your kids into a nirvana of happiness, then as a final line, it is perfectly okay to say, "There is a house to be painted, a car to be washed and a lawn to be mowed." Watch for their fearful faces before you hand them a bucket and then it is fine to ask, "Are you still so bored?"
And leave it at that.
Alice Wisler writes southern fiction from her home in North Carolina. She's the author of the novels RAIN SONG, HOW SWEET IT IS, HATTERAS GIRL and A WEDDING INVITATION from Bethany House and STILL LIFE IN SHADOWS from River North/Moody. Her newest devotional, GETTING OUT OF BED IN THE MORNING, is a companion through grief and loss. Thanks to the bored days of the summers of her youth in Japan, Alice learned to cook, write, fight with her younger brother and co-host the radio show, Talk a Mile a Minute. Check out her recent radio blogs and writing workshops.