I had one of those days yesterday; actually, I had one of those weeks this week where most things seemed a lil’intense. By intense I mean, not only did Friday appear and we had one box of duder’s school snacks left (no big deal), we literally have no kid-appointed-food-in-the-house. Still, no big deal but whoa – not my style.
There was also a lot of high-hopes at the beginning of the week, rallying to get on top of all that stuff, and then… a bump big enough to take over Monday night and Tuesday and leave stain marks on Wednesday and Thursday. One of those things that even though you don’t want to give it attention, the number of places it affects leaves you constantly bumping into it when you think you’re in a safe zone thinking about, I don’t know, when you’re going to clean the shower next week. I will say that having just watched Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, it is easier to put weeks like these into perspective.
I don’t want to talk about all that stuff though, I want to talk about a cool moment last night where I found myself to be… Bored. Yup, the vacant brain, task-list pretty complete, no book to read and no games of interest, boredom that rarely settles over me. I will say, I’ve rarely experienced boredom like other people seem to have. I enjoy my own company immensely, and can usually think of something that I need, or want, to get done. Last night though was a mix of, “I don’t want to do what’s left” and “There is no evening activity I feel like doing right now” which usually means I’m asleep by nine. Exciting, I know.
So, what’s the big deal with boredom? Well, I found it refreshing. It was nice to turn my brain on autopilot and just sit. Aisha and I have had a few interesting conversations lately about the phrase ‘adulting’, which, thankfully, not many people in our life use. It’s one I don’t have space for, namely because I am finally in a life stage where I feel successful. Where being anal, and on top of things, and paying your bills and having life insurance are cool, so, I am by proxy ‘cause, I’ve got it lined up! But at the same time, the undercurrent of what ‘adulting’ means to people who resist the obligations of being thirty-plus started churning. How by having embraced ‘adulting’ I am doing ok. For instance, I needed some personal time the other day, having had a raising-a-boy-as-a-strong-minded-adult moment, so I decided to clean the shower before I showered, while I was in the shower. I got to ‘play around’ before getting down to business. This was a big moment of blending a duty with a need because my showers are usually the most functional eight minutes you’d maybe ever witness (not, an invitation 😉). I have just recognized the things that need to be done and imagine that my moving through my day (actually just doing chores) I’m actually doing amazing trick shots on a skateboard, swooping down to grab that piece of laundry then springing up with an awesome kickflip to pay the electricity bill two days early. But, as you can imagine, this means that I do not have a lot of idle time.
On to my point. I was inspired to start thinking about boredom when a friend posted the New York Times opinion piece, “Let Kids Get Bored Again”. I can attest to having parents that were into us learning about idle time. I was alone a lot, which is not to say I was bored. I’m blessed with an epic imagination so with the toys I had, my time was well spent. I look at kids today, especially after a week of watching my two favorite kids interacting and getting to know each other and wonder if they even actually know boredom. I don’t think boredom exists in the same sense, but something else does. Like, boredom for me was day five of August, before we went to Nova Scotia, with no TV and no friends around. I’d be sitting under a tree in the backyard listless. No camp, no friends, but I wasn’t sad or lacking. I was just… day five of self-entertaining day play while my parents were busy. That was boredom lol. I like how Pamela Paul fosters an excitement for boredom, for being told to ‘go out and play’ or torturing your sibling in the backseat of a long drive. I was telling duderonomy on our drive to Stratford that when we would go to Florida our ‘entertainment gift’ was a box of clementine’s we could challenge ourselves to peel in one go. We would play eye-spy or I’m thinking of an animal, sleep, read or do word-searches. We’d sing and listen to music. I think my lil’guy would be fine with that, but he does like the reassurance of his electronics.
Do you get bored? Are you ok with the word bored, or is there a different one you prefer to use? I looked into it a little, because I feel that boredom – as a concept, needed to be flushed out for me. I found the article, “There Are Five Types of Boredom: Which Are You Feeling?” which was cool because I like when people separate within one concept. I think the five types fully capture what I would consider the good and bad of boredom, but at the base of it, the worry is it can be a non-productive, uncomfortable space.
As adults, we are not really talking about the light, idle, directionless feeling kids should feel. Ultimately, I think adult-boredom is static, but I like how this article makes me reconsider whether that is negative through their differentiation: indifferent, calibrating, searching, reactant, and apathetic. Most adults who ‘catch a moment’ would be in the category of ‘indifferent’ boredom. Calibrating, searching and reactant all seem to have potential to stir motivation or change, with reactant seeming almost volatile and obsessive. Apathetic boredom seems to be what many may confuse for depression, and the one that flags my brain.
The problem is, most people don’t really do the work in moments like these to consider what type of bored they are and whether they should follow along with the recommended course of action. I would also argue that you can be 90% fine but bored with the room you spend most of your time in, and that can cause a type of restlessness. So, when we talk about boredom, whether as adults or in reference to kids, what matters?
There are (sticking with condensed reference materials here) Six Scientific Benefits of Being Bored that occur when people use their boredom to motivate. When Wikipedia gets involved, you can see why I worry about the other unspoken side of boredom – motivation.
“Boredom can act as an emotion, a drive, state of mind and numerous other constructs which may be both state (environmental) and trait (internal) based in nature. Everyone experiences boredom differently…Boredom interferes with many of our behavioral, cognitive and physiological constructs, often to the detriment of the individual. In the context of motivation, boredom may have an even larger effect. Being motivated requires a number of processes not limited to attention, well-being, satisfaction and reward. Individuals who are more prone to boredom find it harder to focus and attend to stimuli in their environments…Although boredom is mostly seen as negative, recent evidence supports its necessity in our daily lives, particularly for goal setting.”
Motivation is a huge interest of mine. Namely because it is literally behind everything we do in our lives. Are you a go-getter, do you make altruistic choices? Are you interested in doing well in school, or at work? Do you plough through everything for that moment that you can experience the thing that truly brings you happiness? I don’t think motivation is something that can be taught, but it can be fostered. I think teaching someone to be motivated is insanely hard. How do you introduce a concept that relies entirely on the individual that is a constant ‘job’ to a kid? Or an adult for that matter – “if you stopped buying a ten-dollar game every pay-cheque, you’d have x-number of dollars saved” – because now is so much better, no matter how old you are. Motivation is like the balance of everything so boredom can be enjoyed. But the rewards are always far off.
Motivation is best identified as the unbelievable stories of anyone who has directed a crazy life change and a) went back to school and did some crazy philanthropic project b) lost a ton of weight and is now the spokes person for ‘x’ or whatever story you know. Motivation, when harnessed is an incredible power. Unfortunately, I seem to be a motivated adult who has no where to put it. When I was solo, I committed to Muay Thai and reading, nutrition, and a super intense physical workout regime. So, it was funny after being in a state of “how the hell do families find anything to do in Niagara” for the past year that I found this piece (on reddit and I wanted you to read, so I hope this is legal):
So, for my brain with all these considerations I guess the natural place I arrive at is this: do kids need to go back to boredom, or do we need to up our motivation game?
As an adult, I have moved, relocated and changed my environment often, to downplay the actual amount. What keeps me motivated falls on a, small to fear-inducing, scale that I am trying to figure out how to impart to my lil’fam cautiously and calmly, but the fact that some motivators literally have imaginary monsters chasing me as a consequence, doesn’t make it easy to kid myself that it would help duder with HIS overactive imagination.
But how do I teach duder motivation, when YouTube and all kids-entertainment-systems teach how to engage, win, compete, move from activity to activity, and not be bored. Can an almost-eight-year-old hear beyond the “not right now” to figure that he is the coolest thing he’ll ever know? I think not, but I don’t know how to- nor do I want to- fabricate a motivational ‘ah ha’ moment. For anyone!
I suppose the question is, does being bored mean we make space for motivation? At what age does Nancy Colier’s assertion, “It’s not only ok to let your child be bored, it’s paramount that you do so” (Psychology Today) change? How do you accept boredom as an adult?
“…I also believe that introversion is my greatest strength. I have such a strong inner life that I’m never bored and only occasionally lonely. No matter what mayhem is happening around me, I know I can always turn inward.”
― Susan Cain