Remember the times, when we were little and travelled by trains for journeys that lasted over 24 hours? Those train rides meant either playing cards, gazing aimlessly out the window or the infamous antakshari battles. If we uttered the words, “Mummy, I am bored!”, we were exiled to the top berth and asked to take a nap or better still, ‘just stay still’.
And we did! I remember many a times laying there and staring at the fan up, counting the dust-laden webs hanging, just waiting to fall down and meet their inevitable death. Occasionally, I would peek down to see the world below me. Especially when I would hear a small child singing to an orchestra of two flat stones that would make a peculiar tapping sound; or another child sweeping the bogie with their t-shirt. It was boring moments like these that have had the deepest impact on my life and on who I am as a person today.
And now, even when we hop into our car to get to the nearby grocery store, we are bombarded with this statement multiple times. What does it mean for them to be bored, anyway? Is it the lack of interest in what they are doing or the lack of the ‘fun quotient’ or is it just the lack of creative stimulation? I believe, it is a combination of all of the above, but strikingly so, it is the lack of stimulation in this overstimulated world.
As soon as the baby is disconnected from the umbilical cord, he or she is immediately connected to various paraphernalia to stimulate the little mind. Be it the jungle book themed mobile to go over the crib or his play mat, everything is themed so that baby Einstein’s senses get full exposure.
And, as soon as he starts walking and talking, he is whisked off to some play school where books, iPads, games and toys take centre stage and the same humdrum of ‘Baa baa black sheep..’ is repeated in chorus, without anyone questioning why not ‘Waa waa white sheep’?
Then comes formal schooling and a smorgasbord of classes. My little one goes to keyboard, chess and tennis, a proud moment for me as a parent who never went to any. And yet, she often exclaims, she is bored.
And then I am forced to retrace my memory to excavate the things we did as children and why we actually enjoyed being bored. Well, we enjoyed being bored because we were left with no other choice. My fingers outnumbered the number of toys I had. We didn’t have a wide array of ‘things’ (read: Gadgets) to keep us busy all the time and so, we learnt and adapted to being bored. Actually, I wouldn’t even call it being bored. It just meant relaxing, giving our mind a break and basically, doing nothing. And I recall that in those moments of sheer nothingness, I observed, learnt and connected with my deeper self in ways that have helped me tremendously as an adult.
Perhaps, we ought to teach our children to enjoy being bored. We need to stop, and celebrate each time they say they are bored. Don’t let not bad-parent-guilt come over, just because boredom is lurking over our child and we feel incapable of doing something about it. Just let them be bored. Also, we must remind ourselves to not let them resort to the TV, tablet, video games, our phone or heck, even books when boredom sets in. To sit idle and be able to do nothing is actually a gift in this day and age, and we as parents need to understand this.
Allowing them some boredom time, just like screen time, will enable them to understand their inner being and learn to cope with being alone with their thoughts. And moments like these, of observation and contemplation, work like an elixir for their creativity and freedom of expression. It is moments like these that have led to the greatest scientific discoveries, the greatest literary works or even the greatest works of art.
And so, the next time you hear those infamous words shooting from their mouths, remember this one thing; Boredom is a gift like no other. It is often met with contempt but leaves you fulfilled like no other, only if you allow it to do its thing.
Author: Brinda Rana