I’ve recently read several news articles on the importance of allowing your child to experience boredom. Unlike years ago, today’s children are ushered between school, extracurricular activities, and play dates to remedy any utterance of the dreaded phrase: “I’m bored!” And if activities aren’t the balm then it’s the temptation of the endless lure of electronic devices and the internet. Researchers exhort the merits of boredom and warn of the dangers of too much screen time – and I think it’s safe to say that most parents and adults would agree with their claims. However, with all this fuss about not allowing children to become bored, what about us adults?
Do we allow ourselves to be bored when we carry around little devices that capture our attention with the flick of a finger and a screen beckons us with a myriad of ways to distract ourselves? No, we do not. We praise the cult of the multi-tasker and believe we’re so smart and clever that we can always be connected, always doing. And if we leave the tiny little devices in our pocket or purse at, say, the bank, we don’t have to worry while we wait a few minutes in line because there are television screens to keep us occupied. If we fidget, we can pull up an app, yet we tell our children: “Limit your screen time!”
When my son was born, I took a long maternity leave, a unique privilege that most aren’t granted as my husband and I are self-employed. But I also was under the impression that I could work from home. I thought I could achieve so much thanks to an internet connection and my ability to respond to emails, upload social media posts, and query staff from the cloud. Never mind that I was laundering diapers and onesies at the same time, and was utterly sleep deprived. I kidded myself: look, I can work, be productive and stay home with my son. Victory is mine!
Working from home is now basically impossible because of a kid who can detect the moment I’m about to open my laptop to check my email or shop online and barrels into the kitchen and slams the screen shut. “No work, mama,” he says. I don’t need to read an article about the dangers of screen times on the brains of kids. What I should be more concerned about is my own screen time and phone use. And even when I try to power off my phone on Friday nights while observing Shabbat, I feel an urge: What if someone needs to get ahold of me? What if I need my phone to take a picture?
You know what happens when I leave my phone off on Friday nights? After my son goes to bed, I turn it back on only to discover that not one single person has texted me or emailed me. All is just fine in the world. And without my phone, I may have experienced a slight twinge of boredom while reading the same book repeatedly about a truck rescue, but you should have seen the castle I built out of Duplo blocks. You won’t find it anywhere on social media or tagged with a clever hashtag but my son really liked it and that’s all that really matters.
We should all be bored. It’s not just for kids. Let us all find ourselves into boredom and see what happens.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.