Beth at Nutwood Junction recently did a post on Boredom that reminded me of something I wanted to write about. (She also subtitled her blog "A Place Where Boredom Is Not An Option!", which is way cool.) I can't remember ever complaining of being bored when I was a child, although I probably did -- most kids do. And I'm sure I did feel bored from time to time, but I honestly can't remember being bored, and I know there could have been no excuse for my being bored.
I was a reader, and an imaginative child who could play for hours by myself. I made up stories and wrote them down, along with complete generational histories of all the main characters. I loved paper dolls and had a large family of them, and they lived quite interesting lives. I remember learning to embroider one winter. I learned to play guitar another time. I had dogs and cats, horses at my disposal, and plenty of land to roam over with cliffs, caves, grapevines, sandbanks, trees to climb and rail fences to walk. I had lots of family around, and on Sunday afternoons there was usually a big Sunday dinner, culminating in everyone sitting around playing their instruments and singing. I grew up in a family where the grown ups would play with the kids -- outside on a Summer afternoon were badminton, kick the can, or tag -- and inside when the weather was bad were "Going To California", "Riddle Me, Riddle Me Ree" or "Telephone". I could talk on the phone for hours to my friends if I wanted to, and if I was craving companionship I'd have them over. And when there was no one to play with, then I played by myself or read.
Yes, I did live mostly in my own head, and I still do, until I make myself venture out. Eler Beth is very good at making me venture out of myself. Most of the time Andrew can occupy himself if there are no other options that appeal to him, and sometimes prefers solitude. But Eler Beth takes more after Thomas in that she much prefers others around her, 95% of the time, and she wants to be up and doing. But the main difference between her and Thomas in that regard is that Thomas doesn't require someone else to be there to entertain him, and she really has to be made to do something on her own when there are no other options. She'll suffer from cabin fever much more quickly than the rest of us. I hope that as she matures, she will also decide that boredom is not an option in her world, and learn to make the most of whatever she has to work with, even when she's faced with an unwanted, boring, or challenging task.
When we started classes back after the first of the year she was a little difficult. Yes, my little darling can get a typical almost-teen attitude with me sometimes. (Her bad tempers come in short spurts, though, and, like a Summer storm over the ocean, they usually blow themselves out pretty quickly.) But for a few days in a row she really fought against getting back into the routine of schoolwork, and I was beginning to lose the tenacious hold I'd had on my own temper.
One day right before lunch, I started to receive some attitude. She reported her woes to me over and over and over. The weather is horrible, I haven't been able to get outside for days, school is so boring, I don't know why I have to learn all this, you just don't understand, you don't know how hard it is for me to have to sit here and read this, you had it easy when you were a kid, you lived on a farm -- (I interrupt to say, I didn't live on a farm, I lived in the country) -- you lived in the country, you could go outside and do stuff whenever you wanted, Mamaw let you go wherever you wanted to by yourself, I just have a little bit of woods out back to play in, you had lots of woods to play in, you could go walking whenever you wanted, and so on.
I had breathed deeply, counted to ten, gone about my business in the kitchen, giving her time to vent, when all of a sudden -- no, not all of a sudden, we were on the third or fourth run-through -- I had had enough. I slammed down whatever I had in my hand, marched into the living room where she was supposed to be doing her reading, and actually shook my finger at her. "Listen here! You live in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, with plenty to eat, parents who love you, ALL KINDS of games and toys, computers, books to read, pets, and friends to play with. When the weather's nice you can go outside and ride your bike around the neighborhood or play in your own yard and, yes, even in that little bit of woods by the creek. Do you know that there are kids in other countries who not only don't have any of those things, but can't go outside their front door -- if they have a door -- without fear of being shot or blown up? Don't you think they'd love to have what you have, to have the opportunity to be a little bit bored from time to time? Now you just think about that!"
I turned and marched back into the kitchen. She never said another word about being bored, and when I checked on her in a few minutes she was reading quietly, and she did the rest of her lessons that day without complaint. But when I first went back into the kitchen the first thought that came to my mind was, "Oh my goodness, did I just use the "Starving Kids In China" argument?!?
But it must have worked, because I haven't heard any of those complaints since that day. Sometimes it's good to step back and take a look at what we have instead of worrying about, or complaining about, or whining about what we don't have. It's okay to vent our frustrations when we need to, especially in a safe environment, like with a Mom who really does understand and who'll let you get it off your chest. But if it looks like you've gotten your perspective a little out of kilter, and if you're on your way toward wallowing in self-pity, don't be surprised if Mom firmly straightens you out!
And sometimes Mom firmly straightens herself out. In my previous entry I wrote a bit about losing money in our IRAs and 401k. It's a worry, especially when retirement isn't that far away. But in the grand scheme of things, we are not so bad off, and at any moment things could be so much worse. So I'll vent my frustration once in a while, and get over it. But if I ever start woe-is-me'ing too much, or complaining of being "bored" with what I have, someone please remind me about the starving kids in "wherever", okay? And thank you, my friends, for providing a safe environment for me to vent whenever I need to.