It doesn’t happen a lot, but when the boys complain that they are bored I nod and say yeah, it’s okay to feel that way. The discomfort of boredom is just the feeling that your brain is casting around for something to hook onto. Don’t rush to grab the first flashy thing just to end boredom as quickly as possible. Give in to it for awhile. Let your mind and your interests wander a bit, ruminate. Let ideas percolate. It is okay. The process always yields something cool. Like folding post-it notes into shapes of letters and spelling things out across the table. Or seeing how many times you can scrunch up and flatten out a piece of tin foil, or training the dog to find a treat hidden somewhere in the living room, or inventing a new card game. Or picking up a book you forgot to ever finish. Or going for a walk, or making toast for everyone, or seeing if you can cut a slick of pear thin enough to look through.
If they complain again, I offer to make them take the trash out or work on some exciting grammar exercises. Next I kindly offer to chop off one of their arms so A) the day would be more memorable, B) we could take an exciting trip in an ambulance and C) everyday tasks would be more of a challenge so they’d never be bored again.
If they complain again, “I’m bored!” then I say “Me too. Entertain me!” and then they have to find their harmonicas and dance me a jig.
And if still they complain, “WE ARE BORED.” I say “NO, YOU’RE BORED. The whole system is bored!”
Or I tell them the story of the old rabbit who fretted while he was waiting for his annuity to be funded, until finally after a series of mishaps he called his accountant who assured him that his retirement strategy was well diversified. In a delightful side story the rabbit looked up the word annuity in the dictionary to confirm that he understood what it was, but this only confounded him further as he needed to look up some of the words used to describe the term and on and on this went until he found himself deep in an Escheresque Webster’s fractal, a type of learning experience ironically known in research circles “as going down the rabbit hole”.
The seventh or eight time they say they’re bored I tell them I won’t believe them unless they write it backwards and show me in the mirror.
The ninth time I tell them that boredom is the inverse of de ja vu, and it only happens on days when time is running backwards. This gives them the delightful experience of explaining why everything I just said makes NO sense. The eye-rolling alone helps kill several minutes, plus counts as exercise.
If they complain again I congratulate them and say I will punch their loyalty card. The eleventh bout of ennui is free!
Next I make them look up the definition of the word ennui. Also: Annoy, angst, annuity.
If they’re still bored after a day that I have by now packed full of amusing activities, I point out that I for one haven’t been bored for hours. Maybe they should find a person younger than themselves who is bored and think of helpful suggestions for that person. Helping others feels great!
Eventually I will lose interest in trying to help them remedy their boredom. At this point I recommend watching me take a nap or reading one of my old college textbooks or watching a documentary about the Brooklyn bridge. Which sort of backfires because they sarcastically try my suggestion and then I wake up to them saying “GUESS WHAT. The first guy who designed the bridge DIED in a bridge accident and then his son took over and then HE almost died so that guy’s wife did most of the work and this is SO COOL!”
Then I don’t know whether to feel glad because my kids are documentary-loving dorks like me or lame because after all that I used television to solve their boredom for them. I settle for smug because I got to take a nap.