We’ve just rolled a six. The little plastic die, red with white pips, had landed with the six side up and proclaimed it officially a “Boring Day” in our house. And she, crestfallen, is crying. “It’s not a big deal.” I say.
“NOOOO!” She wails. “Daaaaaaaddy!”
As summer arrived, school ended and the spans of our life shifted into the carefree days of the never-ending, melancholic release from the planned and patterned routine of learning, practices, lessons, schedules and obligations. “What are we going to do all summer?” She had asked me on our regular drive home from school one day.
That conversation had, in a meandering and good-idea-at-the-time sort of way, led to the creation of “Boring Days” in our house.
“Look,” I say. “It just means you need to entertain yourself today.” Our official-and-agreed-upon rule stated that upon the roll of a six, all parental obligations for entertainment of the said child were null and void for the period of one full day. In other words, she was on her own and obliged to keep herself busy without begging to be entertained.
A burbling, whimpering, pout of a cry matched from a dangling lower lip and a face writ in despair. Boring days are boring.
“Just go find something to do.” I say firmly.
“I don’t know whaaaaaaaa…” She replies, in a stuttering moan.
“You know the rules.” I grin. “You need to figure it out.”
fostering independence, rule 012
indulge in the absence of external amusement: enforce boredom
We seem to live in a time wrought of parental despair at the state of childhood independence. Mommy-bloggers wax nostalgic on the apparent shift from the (most likely imagined) heady days of 1964 when kids roamed freely on the streets, “just playing” with friends, and the buzz of tablet computers and streaming digital television were futuristic fantasies rather than electronic babysitters. Daddy-bloggers follow in their wake and rant in return on the fallacies of indulgent over-scheduling and the frustrations of a life littered with play-dates and formalized friendships. And we are none of us immune from the feelings that there is more to being a parent than just being an oversized performer for our kid’s entertainment. While there is always the hope that dad can be persuaded and bent from the righteousness of his constantly self-questioning philosophies, the roll of a dice is an immutable truth, an outcome of randomness turned reality that no amount of crying can change.
Independence comes in many forms and I can imagine that learning to be alone with oneself is among the most difficult, particularly for those whose personality craves otherwise. Enforcing boredom, through the will of a dice roll or the old fashioned way, through the force of will that is seemingly rare in the modern parent mentality, is a cruel game but one that just might make her a stronger player.