In Praise of Boredom

by Abby on February 17, 2012

Mom, I'm BoredOne recent Saturday, I put my younger son down for a nap and had just sat down on the couch with a book and a cup of tea when my 5yo came into the room. “I’m bored, Mom. What can we do?”

We? I thought. I don’t know about you, but I’M enjoying a nice quiet moment to myself.

What I said was: “Buddy, we just got back from the school fair. I’m going to relax for an hour. You go find something to do by yourself. You can color, read your new magazine, do whatever you want as long as it’s quiet.”

“Okaaayyy,” he sighed, slumping away.

I am happy to say that in our house, the B word is used infrequently. “This is boring, I’m bored,” are relatively new phrases around here. Partly, I blame kindergarten. After five jam-packed days of fun and learning and snacks and gym and friends, it IS pretty underwhelming to sit at home while your little brother sleeps and your mom reads.

But partly, I understand where Miles is coming from. I get bored, too. In fact, earlier in the week I was feeling so bored with my daily routine that I could barely drag myself out of bed. I had done the school-gym-grocery store-Target-home circuit so many times I could do it in my sleep. I feel like I HAVE done it in my sleep. All of a sudden I’m in the supermarket parking lot or the school pickup line and I don’t remember how I got there. Packing lunches, doing laundry, checking email, filling out forms day after day after day hardly makes for a compelling existence.

But I am not afraid of a little boredom. Not for me, not for my kids. I think it’s GOOD for kids to be bored. I think they NEED to learn how to entertain themselves. Life is not one long stream of playdates and party invitations and scintillating conversations. Sometimes you’ve got to make your own fun.

As a kid, I remember being bored a lot. My parents were usually busy grading papers, and my older brother was off with his friends. Aside from gymnastics and piano lessons here and there, my days weren’t booked with activities. I spent a lot of time lying on my baby-blue bedroom rug, daydreaming, listening to the radio, reading, drawing, and making hot chocolate on my radiator in Dixie cups.

I like to think that being bored as a child gave me the chance to flex my creative muscles, to learn to use my imagination. I can’t say for sure it made me a writer, but I know it contributed to my lifelong love of reading, because now the first thing I do when I’m bored is head to the library. A new book is an escape, a welcome distraction. Books give me an influx of new ideas, and sometimes inspiration.

I can see that I’m rubbing off on my son. That day, after complaining of boredom, he went off and did some coloring. He wrote his own book, stapled together and illustrated in red marker, about a boy who gives his dog a Valentine. When he was done with that, he sat next to me on the couch and read the latest Magic Treehouse book he’d checked out of the school library. He READ it. BY HIMSELF, sounding out the words under his breath. I couldn’t be prouder. I guess kindergarten’s not so bad after all.

Woman thinkingNEWS O’ THE DAY: If you’re feeling bored and looking for some writing inspiration, the next session of my 6-week e-mail classes, Personal Essays that Get Published Levels 1 & 2, starts March 7. Packed with interesting readings and practical information on how write and submit your life stories for publication, students have told me the classes are fun, motivating, and useful. Past students have gotten their essays published in regional parenting magazines, on the web, and even in Southern Living and the New York Times. For more info, testimonials, and to sign up, go to http://www.abigailgreen.com/for-writers.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou Mello February 17, 2012 at 7:41 am

That pensive/bored look on his face is hilarious, perhaps an acting career is in his future.

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Kelli February 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Reading Magic Treehouse in K??? Wow – that is awesome! We’ve been having boredom issues too…but you are right, it’s important for them to learn how to entertain themselves. So glad that Noah loves to play LEGOS. Just a handful can keep him occupied for 30 minutes. 🙂

And really? Hot chocolate on the radiator? genius!

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Abby February 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm

It’s funny – he had no interest in the books last summer. Too many words, not enough pics. But his teacher plays the audio versions for them during rest time. Then Miles gets the books out of the library. He doesn’t read them cover to cover, but I think he can follow along somewhat because he “knows” the story from having heard it.

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Holly Rose February 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm

This is so true. In today’s society, children are inundated with so much that they don’t quite know what to do when they are unplugged. It’s a great idea to let them figure it out for themselves . Personally I threaten to make them clean if they get bored lol. They quickly find something to do!!

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Rohit February 22, 2016 at 12:09 am

Hi, This is my first time here at Word Art Wednesday. Abby sent me. I’m not sure of all the rules. I am a new follower and I did join in but After lionokg around my post my not qualify. Let me know I understand if it must be deleted. Joyous Wishes, Linda

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