A Practicing Parent

13 Apr 2019
A Practicing Parent

Being Bored Is Work

“I don’t get it,” Jessie* said to my husband a few years back when he took her to Take-Your-Kids-To-Work Day. “Why do you have these Board meetings?”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, they’re boring. Isn’t that why you call them ‘bored meetings?’”

Being bored. My children (and many adults) don’t know how to be bored anymore. I can’t even stand on a line anymore without pulling out my phone. I wonder about this and my parenting intuition tells me it can’t be good.

“Can I have the iPad?” my 4-year-old son Luke* asked. We were three seconds into our four-hour family road trip.

I’m fine with allowing him to use a device occasionally (okay, truth be told, it is sometimes more than occasionally). The iPad is like an instant crankiness-off switch. I also know it’s me being a bit lazy. It gives us peace in the car, but am I sacrificing his ability to gaze out the window and daydream? To be creative? To make up games and practice play? I am starting to believe that kids have to do just that—practice at play. In my opinion, the more you play, the better you exercise your creativity. The less you play, the harder it is to be self-reliant and independent. I digress….

I have a love-hate relationship with that iPad. The topic of kids and too much screen time is hammered home in the media, but I think it’s different for everyone. I mean, I remember sitting in front of the TV on Saturday mornings and watching HOURS of cartoons. I can also recite the TV lineup on Tuesday nights on ABC from my childhood. Was that so dissimilar from Luke’s iPad time?

“No iPad right now; let’s play a game….” I turn and look at my now 14-year-old daughter, sporting white plastic pods in her ears, staring intently at her phone. “Let’s play, name all the animals that you can starting with the letter B.”

Luke’s face lit up. “Easy peasy! Bear, bat, beaver….”

“Hmmm,” I said, “good ones. How about buffalo?”

“Bison,” my husband chimed in from the driver’s seat.

I noticed that Jessie’s head slumped against the window. Is it bad to sleep with those pods blaring in her ears? “Beagle,” she said. Hmmm, I guess she wasn’t sleeping, I thought, feeling hopeful that I found a game to engage us all.

“Mommy,” Luke said, “I can’t think of any more. I’m bored. Can I watch the iPad?”

I sighed. “Sure,” I said, feeling guilty as I glanced at my phone. We can practice being bored a little later, right?

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