It’s that time of year, the season when hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of kids around this country of ours utter three words that terrify parents.
“I am bored.”
If my calculations are correct, the initial onslaught of this phrase will begin to trickle out of children’s mouths with mind-numbing regularity any day now. And as much as we parents try to find activities for them like summer day camp, music lessons and our 15th trip to the zoo, we are helpless to stop these three words from torturing us from now until Labor Day.
To those of us with insanely busy lives, boredom seems like an ultimate luxury. Every day as I head down the Harbor Freeway toward the light-speed pace of my day job, I think of how glorious it would be to bask in the luxury of boredom — to wake up and not know exactly what to do with my day. Or the next.
I sometimes picture myself on an empty beach with a stack of good books, a margarita and no cell phone reception. I’d get up at my leisure, walk down to the shoreline and let the incoming tide wet my toes. Or maybe I’d just sit and think for a while longer.
Ah, boredom. Of course, to achieve this state of nothingness, I’d need a clone to go to my Fortune 100 job so that my paychecks will continue to arrive. I will also require someone to do my laundry, pay my bills, clean my house, watch my kids and feed my turtle so I can preoccupy myself with slacking. Oh yeah, someone is also going to need to shop for margarita mix — after all, how else is my glass going to remain full while I am doing nothing under the shade of my striped umbrella?
Personally, I think kids get bored because they don’t know how good they’ve got it. But it’s not their fault. It is a rite of passage. I probably told my mom that I was bored several thousand times between kindergarten and sixth grade. And admit it, you probably said it a few times, too. Being bored is the childhood equivalent of death and taxes. It’s unavoidable.
So too is the inevitable role reversal. One minute you are the kid rolling his eyes at every stupid suggestion of how to fill your time. Then, in a flash, you are the parent, trying to convince your child that your suggestions aren’t stupid, while he or she stares back at you with utter contempt.
How about cleaning your room? Putting away the peanut butter and jelly you left out? Seeing how long you can hide before I find you? Side note: this last one was always a favorite of my mother’s, although for some reason, she never found me. Go figure.
Oh well, at least those momentary conflicts are guaranteed to fill two minutes of their time.
Now, what to do about the next three months?
The insane thing about this struggle is how much more time children today have. Our grandparents had nothing but a can to kick. Our parents only had board games. We endured with nothing but Pong and Asteroids. Our kids have 3-D games on the Wii, iPods and their cell phones — the latter of which may be used to text you with insightful messages like, “I’m bored.”
In the end, when all is said and done, parents will never find the ultimate cure for summer boredom. It’s been an ongoing rite of passage for generations and will most likely continue forever.
Parents look at kids through the jaded filter of their grown-up lives, in which there never is enough time to get anything done, and wonder aloud how anyone can have the gall to say they are bored. And as we rant and rave, our kids look right back at us with an equal amount of curiosity. At least for a few minutes.
And then they are bored again.
GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at email@example.com.