Learning to Be Bored

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

We find ourselves waiting more these days. Thirty minutes during brother's piano lesson, or fifteen minutes for a turn at swimming. There is a lull before the game starts, or we need to drive somewhere.

"Can I play a game on your phone?"

"No," I found myself saying the other day. "You need to learn how to be bored. Pick flowers out of the grass, stare out the window, watch what is going on around you, run around and play with the other kids. You've got a few minutes of free time. Let's not spend it staring at a screen. Okay?"

He sulked off and I looked inward.

Hello, Pot. My name is Kettle.

How many times do I turn to a screen when I've got a few minutes of free time? Standing in line to get coffee, at those same after-school lessons, or waiting for this, that or the other meeting to start. Out comes the screen. 

Now if I've got legitimate work to do, that's one thing. I'm all about productivity in a lull so I can put the screen down when people need my attention. But it's the mindless scrolling and trolling that eats at my soul. I look up and I can't remember what I was just doing. The time was completely wasted. Opportunities to interact with real live people, my world, my community - gone. Even if it's just a "hello" to the barista, or chatting with the other parents waiting, or simply having my eyes up and available for the next person who walks in the room to wait. 

Those things matter. 

Being engaged with people is good for the soul. Being bored for a few minutes gives my brain a chance to rest, and think. Being alert and aware of the movement in the room keeps the synapses firing.

And the little people are watching. 

We are moving towards the summer months, where I hope there is more free time. One of my goals this summer is to use it wisely. Sure, the kids can have screen time. I'm not outlawing it. But just because screens are constantly available doesn't mean we have to use them constantly. We can dedicate certain times to that sort of entertainment. That's fine. But it doesn't have to be our default state. I want us to be free to relax, to enjoy the times in between - the waiting, the few minutes here or there. Being constantly engaged with a screen is exhausting. It's mind-numbing. That's not how I want my children to feel.

So. My children need to learn how to be bored. 

I'm the one who is going to teach them.
How do you handle a few minutes of waiting, or boredom? 
Do you agree that maybe we rely on screens too much?

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One Response to “Learning to Be Bored”

  1. I am SO bad about this lately. I find myself constantly on my smartphone when bored and am trying to make a rule for our family as well for no smartphone activity in the evenings.