Daddy, I’m bored, there’s nothing to do.
Nothing used to upset me more than when one of my three children would tell me they had nothing to do. “What?” I would exclaim, “You have video games, a PSP, cell phones, television, Facebook, skateboards, bicycles, computers, iPods, a piano, a guitar, baseballs, footballs, Frisbees, a tree-house, volleyball, and friends galore. How can you be bored?” Then one day I realized:
Boredom is the result of over entertainment.
What we think of as boredom is really the result of too much stimulation. Let’s face it: there’s always something to do. It may not be as entertaining as a concert or as exciting as car chases, saving the world from evil dictators, or parachuting into Africa to survive on bugs and weeds but there’s always something to do.
We live in a society that expects to be entertained and amused every waking hour and it isn’t cheap. We expect to be mentally stimulated by our spouses, our friends, our environment, and our jobs. If we aren’t, we’re told to ditch them for something or someone that revs our engine, that gets us excited, that ignites our passion.
While I do believe that we should pursue those things that truly interest us and that we find interesting and stimulating, I think we’ve taken that idea a bit too far and our emergency fund, our retirement, and our savings account all suffer. When those three suffer, we lose a little bit of our sense of security, and we sometimes seek to quell that by more stimulation and excitement. It’s a vicious circle, isn’t it?
I can remember visiting my great grand-parents home in the early to mid 1970’s, sitting on the front porch, sipping some lemonade, rocking back and forth in the hand-made rocking chairs that Grand-daddy had made, and doing — nothing. My great grand-parents and the kids weren’t the only ones on that porch either. So were aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, and cousins. The kids would invariably jump off the porch to play in the yard with the dogs, or begin a game of hide-and-seek, or climb a tree, but there was no rush, no loud music, no blaring television, no ringing telephones (they had a shared ‘party’ line), and certainly no, “I’m bored!” Our demand for entertainment was limited to our interaction with each other … and no one was bored. I still remember jumping off that porch with my cousin Steve to run into the garden to eat strawberries right off the vine. No pricey entertainment there, but a lot of great memories.
What’s different today? I believe it’s the amount of entertainment we demand. We get fidgety, antsy, and downright irritable when we’re not connected to some sort of entertainment, whether it’s the Blackberry chirping on our belt or the television blaring about the latest bailout or the computer dinging about another email.
Relieve boredom by being quiet, getting back to nature, exercising, and returning to simplicity.
We even carry our demand for stimulation and entertainment on vacation. Cruise ships are quick to point out everything there is “to do” on board and off, a trip to the beach isn’t complete without riding go-carts or bungee jumping, going to the mountains means hiking, sight-seeing, and mountain bike rides, and everything has to include recreational shopping at an “outlet mall” as well as eating at a pricey restaurant. Our quest for excitement is quite expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.
When’s the last time you were in a truly quiet place? They’re few and far between these days. Take some time this spring, while the weather is getting nicer, to walk though a state or national park or a quiet wooded area. Bring your significant other or a child with you and just relax. Listen to the birds, the wind, and each other. Listen to that small voice inside you that helps you make wise decisions, and resolve to do this more often.
I can vividly remember a camping trip we took about 8 years ago when my three kids forgot to bring their toys. “Oh no,” my wife and I thought, “what are they going to do?” They made up a game with sticks and rocks. They explored around the campsite (it was a state park), we attended a campfire lecture about the history of the area told by a professor who dressed in period clothing, and we stared at the campfire, talking and connecting with one another. I never heard “Daddy, I’m bored.” on that trip, just the melodious sounds of laughing children, the wind rustling through the trees, the pop of a campfire and the quietness of nature.