“Get your shoes on,” I said. My four-year-old was laying on the couch, her head dangling off the edge.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“We need to get outfits for our family pictures! Want to go to the store and pick something out something?”
“Not really,” she answered, her voice monotone, the way I imagine it’ll sound when she’s a teenager.
“Well, we have to get going. Go put on your shoes.”
“What can I do?”
“What do you mean? You can look at clothes with me,” I answered.
“That’s boring. What else can I do?”
I paused trying to remember the last time I had taken my daughter into a clothing store. Since she started school a few mornings a week last fall, I’ve been doing all my shopping solo. My girls hate shopping, and I hate dragging them along while they make mischief, climbing under display tables and hiding in between racks. I probably hadn’t forced my four-year-old to take on the task of clothing shopping, even for herself, in over a year.
“What can I do that’s fun?”
“Do you want to bring a coloring book? You can ride in the stroller and color.”
“Do you want to listen to music?”
“How about watch a show?”
“‘Watch a show‘? What do you mean?”
“You know, on the iPad.” Funny kid. She knows the answer, but she asks anyway.
“No, we’re not bringing the iPad to the store.”
“But I’ll be bored!”
Oh, the infinite struggle against boredom, not unique to our children’s generation (whatever they’ll be called), but tackled so vigorously with technologies we couldn’t even have dreamed up when we were that age. Remember before the INTERNET???
The thing is, I kind of like the idea of my kids being bored now and then. You’ve probably seen the headlines about how boredom is actually good for kids!
“…Children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them… It is this sort of thing that stimulates the imagination…while the screen ‘tends to short circuit that process and the development of creative capacity'” (BBC).
“Children need to sit in the nothingness of boredom in order to arrive at an understanding of who they are. And just as important, children need to sit in the nothingness of boredom to awaken their own internal drive to be” (Huffington Post).
“Brains that aren’t occupied with tablet-swiping, puzzle-completing or anything else are more likely to try new things, experiment, and partake in something they wouldn’t normally do or learn” (Fatherly).
Yup, that’s what I thought: boredom leads kids to daydream and imagine worlds beyond those crafted for them on screens. Boredom forces us to reflect on who we are and what motivates us. Boredom leads us to experiment.
The trouble with a bored child is that it usually results in a parent with the opposite feeling. At least in my house, boredom brings kids to my feet. They hang on me, their limp bodies dangling off my arms and legs. They flop on the floor beside me, whining, “I want something to do.” It would be so much easier to just toss ’em a screen and give yourself thirty minutes of peace and quiet.
But most days, I’m trying to resist the urge, because I remember being bored as a kid. I also remember pretending I was Julia Child, narrating a cooking show. I remember making bracelets out of scrap yarn I found in the depths of my closet. I remember watching the leaves rustle on the trees outside my window. And when I think of these things, I remember that it’s good to feel bored because that’s when the world slows down and you begin to notice and reflect.
Too often, adults have their boredom stolen from them, but kids don’t have to lose theirs.