Embrace the Gift Of Boredom
With endless distraction at our fingertips, consider the benefit of being bored
Ah, the serendipity of a snow day, the freedom of the weekend, the endless opportunity of spring break. What could be better than to relax in the tranquility of unstructured hours, serenaded by the lilting voices of my children calling out to me, one after another, “Dad, I’m bored!”
One wonders why children look forward so eagerly to the end of the school year. Yes, there are those parents who can afford to send their children to eight weeks of summer camp, arts and crafts camp, sports camp, music lessons, water parks, beach clubs, summer abroad programs, and Russian space-tourism training sessions.
Other parents dissolve their children in water when school’s out and siphon them into the portals of the nearest phone, tablet, and game console, abandoning them to video games, streaming, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and endless message exchanges of wassup? nmjc, ttyl.
Still other parents are fortunate enough to have jobs that keep them out of the house while their children bemoan the endless hours of monotony. But it has been my sad fate as a teacher to share the house with a passel of enervated teenagers, even if somehow I remain immune to the contagion of boredom that afflicts them whenever school is not in session.
My wife and I offer our children endless suggestions. Go for a bike ride. It’s too hot. Call up a friend. Nobody’s home. Read a book. I’ve read them all. Do a puzzle. That’s boring! You’re bored anyway; what’s there to lose. [A symphony of groans, sighs, muttering, and rolling eyes.]
From whence comes this plague of boredom? Do Inuit children complain of boredom during the four months of winter darkness? Did the children of feudal Europe or Botany Bay or the Great Depression whine relentlessly that there was nothing to do?
And the moral of the story is…
In one of Aesop’s most enduing fables, the ant works diligently to lay away food for the winter while the grasshopper fiddles in the spring, dozes through the summer, and dances in the fall. When winter arrives, the ant retreats to her well-stocked home while the grasshopper slowly starves…