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March 29, 2013

STAWAR: The bored horde

Last weekend, I was assigned to watch my two youngest grandchildren while my wife Diane and our daughter went shopping. 

This has become a more or less a routine procedure, intended to weed out the especially cranky and whiny members of our party. I’m sorry, but too much shopping hurts my knees and makes me crabby. 

I did my level best to entertain the little nippers, including a lengthy cartoon quiz and discussion session regarding the relative merits of Spongebob Squarepants as compared to Patrick and Squidward, innumerable games of Stupid Zombies on my cellphone and watching most of an old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie on YouTube. 

Despite these desperate measures, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, 4-year-old Rosie turned to me and said dismally, “I’m bored.” Surprised that she knew what that meant, I was forced to agree, saying, “Yeah, me too.”

With two older sisters, I’m sure Rosie’s heard that phrase quite often.

I have always thought that being able to tolerate a boring situation with patience and equanimity was a sign of maturity. Since such circumstances are inevitable, it is an important life skill that children are seldom taught. 

Of course, with today’s frenetic and overstimulating technology, entertaining yourself has become considerably easier, although some may argue that these same digital advances have resulted in shorter attention spans, aggravating instead of ameliorating the problem. 

The first recorded use of the English word “boredom” was, appropriately enough, in Charles Dickens’ exceedingly boring novel “Bleak House” back in 1852. Psychologists believe that there are three basic types of boredom stemming from: 1. Being prevented from engaging in some desired activity; 2. Being forced to engage in some undesired activity; and 3. For no apparent reason, being unable to remain engaged in any activity. All of these are related to problems in focusing attention. 

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