School is ending, and while I’m grateful for a break from the early morning routine and that sliver of extra sleep every day (Hopefully? Maybe?), I’m also anticipating hearing the most dreaded words in the English language approximately 13 seconds afterward: “I’m bored.”
I’ve tried all the various techniques my parents used to use on me: e.g.“There’s no such thing as being bored, there’s only boring people.”
Actually, scratch that — it was the only thing they ever tried on me — the lamest, most tedious parent-lingo of all time. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now, but let’s be honest with ourselves, why would it? It’s preachy, parent-y, and scold-y, and the surest way to watch a child’s eyes glaze over with an even more serious case of boredom.
But as I reflect on things, I no longer think it’s actually supposed to work. It’s not really supposed to make a child think, “Hm. That Lady Who Gave Birth To Me is right. Maybe I should pause for a moment and look inward; what choices am I making right now that are keeping me trapped in this cycle of discontent?”
No. It’s supposed to make their little eyes roll with disgust, so that they will go away from you and do fantastical things like create world peace or split the atom out of sheer desperation.
The more parenting I do, the more I realize that as a parent it is your duty to be as boring as possible from time to time, so that they will flee to another room and give you the precious time you need to read that fresh new copy of your favorite lifestyle magazine that just came in the mail.
It. Is. Your. Duty.
If they try to sneak back into the room, it is imperative that you quickly put your colorful, pleasurable magazine away and offer such choices as: “Why don’t you go finish up those thank you cards?” or “You could help me make this meatloaf for dinner tonight,” so that they will flee from you and maybe go read Little House on the Prairie or Anna Karenina, while you leaf through aspirational photos of dip dyed t-shirts and sigh wistfully at how other people seem to live.
This morning I outdid myself. When they came into the kitchen wearing the heavy yoke of boredom, their shoulders slumped, their tiny fingers trailing across the table, aimlessly knocking the newspaper to the ground, I kindly offered a solution to their current state of being: “I’m so glad you’re here. I could really use a hand cleaning out this vegetable crisper before we go away on holiday. Can you put on NPR for me? I’d really like to get Leonard Lopate’s take on this whole NYC charter school bugaboo.” And when they softly backed out of the room, as quiet as church mice, I put my feet up and drank my coffee in blissful silence, just as the Lord intended. I’m not sure what they did, but I’m sure it was wonderful and they learned a lot.
I forgive myself for not being the most fun parent ever on an around-the-clock basis; the way I see it, I’m really doing them a favor. Just think of how creative they’ll be once I get through this stack of old New Yorkers!
Being a boring parent is the natural order of things. And it helps me get a lot of summer reading done.