My 5 year old daughter is growing up ridiculously well-entertained. She has shelves of books, puzzles and games. She deftly navigates Netflix and DirectTV menus. She loves Temple Run, Sims and Angry Birds Star Wars on the iPad. She has become a MarioKart master.
Over the recent Christmas break, we fell into some bad habits. We watched too much TV, played too much MarioKart and washed it all down with iPad. We also read books, made up stories, played outside and did other stuff, but Netflix and MarioKart were central features in our three weeks off together.
She got in trouble yesterday — bedtime defiance issues — and lost her Wii privileges. Loss of Wii is a double-hit because it means no Netflix as well as no MarioKart. Losing Wii access is the surest way to capture my daughter’s attention.
Today, a day spent Wii-free, she complained once of boredom. “I’m bored,” she told me. I don’t think this was strictly true. In fact, I think her boredom was feigned to provoke me. It works.
I hate hearing my daughter say she is bored. I hate hearing adults say they are bored. I don’t really understand what boredom feels like. I don’t do boredom. I do frustration, confusion, laziness, tiredness and exhaustion all the time, but I don’t do boredom.
Boredom happens when a person is utterly uncomfortable or unfamiliar with their own mind. Boredom happens when the room is quiet and a person runs out of thoughts to fill the silence.
Boredom, as it happens, is also a gift. Boredom forces the mind to pay attention. Boredom is a an empty state. Boredom is often a clever disguise for creative resistance. Boredom is the time our mind takes to assimilate new ideas in the absense of incoming stimuli.
My daughter is only five. Maybe she is bored. Maybe she is not. Impossible to say. I know I cannot tolerate willful boredom. Read a book. Make up a story. Sing a song. The mind is always moving. There is no such thing as actually sitting still.