What's wrong with boredom?
Unstructured time is the mother of creativity.
(Page 2 of 2)
His 5-year-old sister was better at the long hours, pulling stickers off a sheet or playing make-believe with the stuffed animals she had packed for the road. Our toddler daughter was likewise a natural at free time, coloring her knees with marker pens and ripping sheets of paper from notebooks and flinging them around the car.Skip to next paragraph
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Our son got better at boredom as we made our way west. On Day 3 he began to count windmills and look for trains. He started to see poodles and dolphins in puffy clouds in the Texas sky.
"Texas is not as boring as I thought," he said. I often joined the kids in the back, where we did taste-comparisons of gum, thumb- and toe-wrestled and used a monkey and a frog as proxies in mixed-martial-arts contests. Our son counted and recounted his money in preparation for stops at gift shops. "Gift shops are the best part about Texas," he said.
We had conversations that we would not have had if Scooby Doo, Shaggy, and the rest of the Mystery Inc. Gang were with us. With the Superstition Mountains in the distance, my husband told the children the legend of the Lost Dutchman's Mine and the many failed attempts to find the gold in the mountains near Phoenix. "Arizona is not as boring as Texas," our son declared. The children used diaper wipes to fashion capes for their animals. The baby learned to feed herself French fries with her toes.
While there is no research on the benefits of eating French fries with your toes, I feel as if we all gained something in daydreaming out the windows. Our son sometimes settled into quiet contemplation of the landscape, which more than once he described as "big and square."
I hope the trip gave him some of the resilience that comes from learning to entertain yourself, but I also wish for something smaller. Lazy, unstructured time feels like a luxury to me, and I hope that the kids learned something about valuing it instead of looking for the fastest way to burn it up before the next stop at Dairy Queen.
I do not always make the right call as a parent. I have been known to serve Cocoa Puffs instead of oatmeal. I am more likely to lose track of idle threats than follow through on punishments that may be well deserved.
But parenting is often about picking your battles, and the mostly happy antics in the back of our van let me know that in banning the small screen we made the right choice this time.