The reason why kids complain about being bored is that the real art of boredom went out of the window, together with hand knitted socks and underwear, years ago. They don’t know what being bored is. Children are just not given the time anymore to really feel the boredom that we parents enjoyed and used to our advantage so many decades ago.
If they are not taken to guitar lessons at the age of 6 months, or spending evenings digesting murderous games on computers, or fiddling with some moronic Nintendo, they are forever escaping into other ‘busy’ pursuits, egged on by parents riddled by guilt who feel that any minute’s repose or reflection in this relentless schedule might be seen as lacking in parental love and care. Worse still, any idleness could be the catalyst for moral collapse and the 5 year old fall into the abyss of fantasy, and make believe, with drugs and mixing with deviants next. How else to explain the spectacle now of so many nervous children and parents in this frantic avoidance of plain boredom with every minute planned and plotted from morning till night?
Yet, it seems kids are complaining of being bored more than ever before. But boredom to modern children could be because they are suffering overloads of 6 minute instant gratification time slots that work like a drug… When children grow to like so many of those mindless activities, are they also not setting themselves up for the next one, and so the never ending chain of instant gratification and over indulgence starts to take hold and even though they appear busy, they are actually suffering from the beginning stage of spiritual dehydration. This is not good boredom but bad boredom, and yet, ‘quality time’ is what most parents are so keen to give to their children.
It is always tempting to reflect on years gone by. At the risk of being accused of being an old fogey, which I am, let me just reflect on how the times were before the advent of all those remotes and electronic diversions.
When we were young we stripped lead flashings from underneath windows, and collected old rags and newspapers and sold the lot to those scrap metal merchants, learning commerce and fast running in case we were caught, all at the same time. We also learnt to burn shoelaces with the help of magnifying glasses and made explosives by stripping match heads which we packed tightly and put on tram rails. There were no TVs, no Xboxes or flash cards, Power Rangers or Spider women. Mothers were scrubbing us over tubs and barely had time in between weaning babies before the next one came along. Quality time was unheard of and no one worried. In the evenings we would do home work and when that was finished, we might be allowed to listen to the radio, ‘Smokey Dawson’. It was the most exciting serial of the week and we would talk to our mates about the latest adventures and happenings, fantasise. In between we enjoyed some lovely boredom.
We sometimes had legs or arms in plaster and were proud to show signatures from footballers on them. We often did nothing or just mucked about on the street, sometimes getting into trouble. We also had time to be bored and ponder, have time to reflect and take in, invent things and imagine stories, or had stories told. Girls had dolls made from rags and sticks, boys with stones and bits of string in pockets. Lovely catapults and broken windows, balls retrieved from cranky neighbours and earning pocket money doing paper runs. We felt free and all was magic, believed in monsters and creatures from the sea. We read books by torch underneath the blankets. Jules Verne and Pippi Longstocking were also our friends.
In between that lovely boredom.
Why is it now so much harder with less kids and more money to have a reasonable and balanced happy family, normal kids growing up into normal adults? Why does it take ever increasing expenditure on gadgets and games to keep kids occupied? Or is the answer not to fall for all that garbage and those corporate blackmailing corruptors of childhood, not spend hundreds of dollars on the latest Xbox or Bluetooth gadgets that just give 6 minutes of instant gratification, before ending up in the box of plastic odds and ends under the bed?
Allow kids to be bored.