(It’s summertime and both parents and children heave a sigh of relief from school work. But some parents actually find summer more challenging because they have to find ways to get their children occupied. They want to avert any signs of boredom. I would like to share with you a chapter I wrote about boredom which I originally intended for the book.)
Do your children always say “I’m bored!”? This is one of the lines I hate to hear from my sons. Several times I’ve said, “Do you know that you are responsible for your own boredom? You are bored because you do not know how to use your time well. So the next time you feel bored, do something about it because I don’t want to hear you whining about boredom!”
Yes, I consider “I’m bored!” a whine. And I think I got the message across because I do not hear this line anymore. But one Saturday afternoon my youngest who was having a bad day mindlessly blurted out the forbidden line. Unfortunately for him, I myself was not having a good day so I snapped back and asked, “What did you just say?” Maybe he was really bored that day because he was not his usual alert self and didn’t get the clue that I was reprimanding him already. Instead, he even answered, “I have been bored since I woke up this morning!” To that I replied, “Oh, you are bored because the moment you woke up, your breakfast was ready and you did not even have to wash your dishes, then you were free to do whatever you wanted because it’s a Saturday, lunch came and it was boringly ready again for you to dig in?” My husband was surprised to hear me talking that way. I saw his reaction but I was not about to end what I started.
I remembered a friend’s childhood story. Like me, her mom also hated the word “bored” so one day when she heard her children (including my friend) say the forbidden line, she made them clean their inn and it was a big job for the little ones but they were not to complain. So after that they really learned their lesson well and never repeated the line again, ever!
I thought maybe my words were not as effective as the “consequence” given by my friend’s mom. Maybe the pain they felt cleaning the inn was a lot more effective. So I thought, what could I ask my bored son to do? We don’t have an inn. Cleaning our house would also be a big job, but our efficient maids were already done cleaning the house for the day. Think! think! Then with my stern voice I said, “OK, go to your room, fix and clean up your cabinets. I always hear you complain that your clothes are always mixed up with your brothers’ clothes. Take out everything and arrange them well. From now on all your ironed clothes will not be returned by Ate (our maid) to your cabinet because you yourself will get them and fix them so there won’t be any errors. When you’re done, call me because I want to check. Is that clear?” “Yes Mommy” was all my mahirit son could reply.
When he left our room, my husband said, “Hon, are you having a bad day? I think you overreacted.” I admitted I was having a bad day then I tried to shake it off. So when my son called me to check his cabinets, I went with a much better mood and we were friends again. Come to think of it, maybe I needed to be in a bad mood at that moment when I heard the whine. If I were in a more pleasant mood, I wouldn’t have given him this long overdue chore. What more, he felt proud to have done something productive that afternoon. As for me, I don’t hear the usual complaints of “My favorite shirt is missing.” and of course the forbidden B word!
This makes me think of the many unpleasant things that happen in our lives just because we allow boredom to take over. Think of a husband and wife who are getting tired of the routine of married life. They let it pass for one day, then another, then another and before they know it, they are so dead bored with each other they don’t feel any need to do something about it. Eventually, the bored husband may try to get some excitement from another girl or a new vice. So the next time either you or your husband gets bored… go fix your cabinet! Do something productive. Don’t try to remedy boredom with something destructive. A lot of vices are started innocently and harmlessly (or so it seems) due to boredom.
A housewife is also susceptible to boredom. The routine of picking up your children from school, tutoring them, scolding the maids can sometimes drive you nuts! Now you may opt to learn how to play mahjong and bet some good money to make it more exciting (and in the process lose your grocery money), or you can eat (and get fat), or you can enroll in ballroom dancing (and fall for your D.I.), or shop ‘til you drop (and endanger your children’s college funds). I am not saying that all of these are bad things to perk up a bored housewife. I’m just saying that we should also be alert about the possible outcome of overdoing these diversions. When you’re bored, try to find out why. There is always a reason. Then try to address the reason.
Boredom is really the enemy. An idle mind is the devil’s playground. To those who have drivers, you may notice that maintaining a good driver is challenging because the job entails a lot of waiting time in between errands. Of all the drivers we’ve had, our present driver is the one I am happiest with. It’s not only because he is really a good person but I have observed him to be someone who does not allow boredom to set in. Most of our previous drivers just drove the car then sat around the house while they waited for the next errand. They watched TV or slept. At first they were all very kind men, careful with their driving and courteous. Then maybe they got bored and most of them got into drinking. They had payabangan sessions with other drivers over cuatro cantos and then they became abusive of their wives and always ran out of money. They deteriorated in their driving and we had to let them go. But our present driver does not watch a lot of TV. He walks the dogs, cleans the pool and even volunteers to do the garden. So maybe it’s because he manages to use his free time productively that he is able to do his main job well.
As for children’s boredom especially during summer, most parents fight it by making sure their children’s summer schedules are full. They enroll them in various summer classes. We also did the rounds of summer classes like swimming, tennis, kickboxing (which I even joined!), dancing, etc. But we never overbook them during summer. My husband and I believe in the virtue of allowing our children some “no activity” time. We want them to be comfortable with alone time. They can choose their own activity or choose to do nothing. We have a rather funny term for this, “time para tumanga.” They can sleep long hours, walk around the village, play basketball with neighbors, play the piano or guitar, do whatever they want to do. It is during free days that they sometimes get creative and end up composing a song, painting on canvas, writing journals. A light summer schedule is very important because it allows them to recharge and fuel up for the challenges of the coming school year.
In A Nutshell: Teach your children that being alone and not having a structured activity is sometimes good. At a certain age, we can impart in them that not being bored is their own lookout. Show them that you yourself are comfortable and can be very productive during alone time.
Let Us Share: You may want to share your boredom buster tips and stories. Please write them below.