When I was growing up, there was a phrase that was seldom, if ever, uttered by children: “Mom, I’m bored.”
I’m sure there were times when we were bored, but I think it just never occurred to us that if we were it was somehow our mother’s responsibility to do something about it.
I am quite sure it never crossed our minds that our parents may not have cared whether we were bored. It simply was not something we concerned ourselves with.
We had color television; we even had cable. That meant to us as children, we had much more access to news and all types of programming. Even for yours truly, back then the news was not at all interesting to me or my brothers.
We watched certain fabulous movies that only aired once a year. Included in my favorite list of classic movies are “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Sound of Music,” “Oliver Twist,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The Ten Commandments,” “Miracle on 34th Street” and “Mary Poppins.”
Some classic animated movies include “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” and “Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin.”
Back in the day, if you missed one of these, you had to wait an entire year before you would get to see it again. The thought of being able to watch movies and shows “on demand” was simply unimaginable.
Saturday cartoons were on early, so my brother, Billy, and I would get up at 6 a.m. for our Bugs Bunny fix.
Cartoons were finished by noon, which is when children donned their sneakers and went outside to play. For the rest of the day.
Sunday was a no television day, unless you wanted to watch religious shows or the news.
My brother always reminds me the worst thing a child could hear back then on any night was “the president is on television.”
You yelled, “Not the president.” That meant hours of nothing but him on and reporters afterwards.
Contrast that with the children of today. Most of them live in homes with at least three televisions. I know families who have televisions in practically every room in the house (one friend has one in her bathroom).
Many of my friends have home theaters that rival the “real” movie theaters for quality sound systems.
In most families, everybody has their own computer, complete with Internet access. Most children have their own room, complete with toys, books and collectibles of every kind.
Practically every family owns at least one type of gaming apparatus. Our children used to always complain that we had the outdated gaming system. Consequently, they “gamed” less, which was always our intent anyway.
Cell phones are quite the norm for children of all ages. I have seen children as young as 10 on their phones.
A new rage is the tablet computer, and I actually see toddlers using these devices while in their strollers. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised since our youngest, 14, was navigating the computer like a pro at age 2.
Pretty much all kids have an iPod or other way to listen to music; most of them can purchase their music on the same device.
Children have access to all types of entertainment, from movie theaters to the mall.
Don’t even get me started on how many television channels our children have access to 24/7. I must agree with them when they say “nothing is on,” but I always add, “worth watching.”
So, all of that said, how can our children possibly ever be bored? The answer, I am sad to say, is precisely all of the above-mentioned things. I fear our children are in danger of losing the ability to think for themselves and therefore think of something to do.
Many of us parents, and I sadly put myself in this category, have fallen victim to thinking that we are responsible for entertaining our children every hour of the day, and if we are not doing that, we think we should purchase one of the above-mentioned electronics.
I was always a busy young person, involved in numerous extracurricular activities, and I loved school.
When I had “down” moments, or what my children would consider “boring moments,” I remember embracing the feeling of not needing to do anything in particular. It was a marvelous feeling.
I know it’s the beginning of another busy school year and most of us parents feel tugged in a million directions. Even so, let’s try to encourage “down” time with our children and make it mandatory that we all “unplug” while we are sharing it.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.