Monday, April 03, 2006

Boredom....


Ted just finished reading A Sense of the Mysterious, by Alan Lightman. Here's a description that I found online:
Alan Lightman was horror-struck to realise that he has no spare time. He has become "a unit of efficiency". He has to reach back to his childhood for the last time he meandered through a day, when time was not cut into efficient byte-sized pieces for instant use. As he writes, the reader thinks. A Sense of the Mysterious is a collection of essays by physicist-writer Lightman, a great introduction to his work and pure pleasure for fans.

So Ted was telling me a bit about this book yesterday, which got me to thinking about my own childhood, and how different it is from Maya's. My childhood memories, from 4 1/2 to 9 1/2, are of Fairbanks, Alaska. Growing up there was so very different than growing up in Stockton, CA, where we moved when I was 9 1/2. In Fairbanks, right in the middle of town, there were whole blocks that were undeveloped wooded area. If you happened to live next to an empty lot that had a clearing, you could make your own ice rink in the winter. There were endless miles for exploring, which was a good thing, because we didn't have cable tv, computers, or day camps to keep us busy. In the cold dark winter, however, we were shut in a lot, and boredom could take over. There are only so many board games one wants to play, and nothing on tv, and I've read all of my books, so what now? And even in the summer, once again, no cable tv, no Nickelodian, Disney Channel, Cartoon Network...no computer or computer games. Sometimes...we got bored. And on long car trips? No DVD player in the car. I would look out the window and wonder how the moon was following us, and wonder what it would be like to live in another solar system, near one of those other stars. These are thoughts that don't happen, I don't think, if you're always busy and entertained...and if they do, it's because a character on tv thinks of them, not you.

I think that boredom is something that is missing in the lives of many children today. I know Maya is almost never bored. Between school, homework, girl scouts, and whatever other activity she might be involved in during a particular year, plus the tv, computer, and video games, she has almost no time to do....nothing. I think this is a problem. I think that children's minds (adults, too, really) are allowed to wander, to explore, to DWELL on things, if the child isn't always busy or being entertained. The problem that we've had is that we both work, and while Maya could come to work with us, it's just computer time here, anyway. She's not old enough yet to be left home alone, and if she were? TV and computer games.

This summer, though, things are changing...my work situation is changing, and I'll be working from home all summer. That means no day camps to keep her busy and 'enriched'. I'm thrilled. She'll get to sleep in late every day, and I'll bump her tv/game time up to 2 hours a day, and we can walk the dog to the park and things like that, but there will be large blocks of time every day when I'll be working, and she'll be....bored. She'll have to think about things and figure out what she wants to do with herself. I'm hopeful for art projects and books read and stories written. I'm hoping she'll go outside and sit and look at the clouds a little bit. I wish there were other children around for her to play with, but we live in a little condo complex, adn the parents all work and the kids are at summer day camps. Kind of lonely for a 10 year old, but I think we'll manage. Wish us luck.

7 comments:

Ms. Mamma said...

Very thoughtful post. I agree, I think so many kids are overbooked. People are so busy they forget all the free simple pleasures, LIKE looking at the clouds on a beautiful day. Time is a gift and we should all use it as wisely as we can. Wishing your trio a magical summer filled with joy discovery and relaxation!

Autumn's Mom said...

ahhhh yeah. I remember lying in the grass just looking at clouds and listening to air planes go by..wondering where they were going. You know what? Autumn gets bored. She's a creative person. The video games and TV and stuff is fine for awhile...but it doesn't stimulate her like drawing or creating something or just being with other people :) Next time she tells me she's bored. I'm going to tell her to go think. About anything!

Pony Storm's Ride said...

What is it in our culture, do you suppose made it a "sin" to be bored?
Is it our puritanical heritage or is it that ol' bourgeois guilt? You can almost hear some modern parent telling a kid, "In many parts of the world, there are children your age who have to work in the fields and sweat-shops, and they don't have the LUXURY of being bored!"
What hogwash! Being bored is healthy. I'll bet Isaac Newton might have been just a wee bit bored the day the apple fell on his head.

Tracy said...

J,

I loved this post! It's so true...how are we to get to know ourselves if we are constantly entertained. It is in silence that we can be introspective, and I truly believe that "the self-examined life is not worth living". Thanks for the reminder.

Lotus said...

What a nice way to think about boredom. I have to admit that I would want my child to be working on or creating "something."

There's nothing wrong with being bored to tears. I remember sitting in my bedroom as kid, looking out the side window, just being bored. But now, I realize that hearing a small airplane flying overhead or the smell of metal window screens wouldn't bring me the sense of nostalgia that they do if I hadn't been bored enough to just sit at the window.

Gina said...

I personally think you two will have a fabulous time!

achromic said...

Good luck!! :) I am surprised you think she is too young to be left home alone but I actually think that is nice and sad in away (nice because you care so much for her, sad because our american socity is SO dangerous we cannot leave a child of 10 in her own home alone.) I bet she will fill the time with all sorts of fun stuff.