“Only boring people get bored,” my Gran used to tell me.
This is now my stock response to Belle whenever the TV gets switched off.
“What am I supposed to do NOW?!” she wails, as though we don’t have a house full of Sylvanian Families, novelty stationery sets and ‘decorate your own fairy mirror’ kits.
“I’m sure you’ll find something,” I say.
“Can I go on the laptop?” Belle asks.
“No” I reply in my best authoritative parent voice. “Do something that means you actually have to use your own imagination, not something involving a screen.”
“Oh great!” she replies, practically leaving a puddle of sarcasm on the floor, “well that’s NOTHING then isn’t it?! You just want me to be bored do you?”
“You know what Great-Gran…” I begin, but my much recycled quote is cut short.
“YES I KNOW!” she shouts, her eyes wide with rage over what is, as far as I can see, nothing at all. She turns and stomps off upstairs, making angry growling noises under her breath. It’s times like these where I can quite sympathise with the half of the population who believe children are turning into animals.
I often think about boredom, and what a different experience it must be for children nowadays. I try to explain to Belle that we only had three TV channels when I was her age, but she can’t seem to get her head around the idea that there wouldn’t be at least one channel playing back to back Disney.
Sometimes I tell her about how excited my sister and I used to be when our dad, a primary school teacher, would bring the school’s one computer home for the holidays, and we’d play Malory Towers – a murder mystery computer game consisting of just text, where you had to type in ‘go to the study’, to discover ‘the gardener is there, do you want to talk to him?’
Apparently though children nowadays expect more.
My sister and I used to have hours of fun playing ‘offices’, writing magazines and recording our own radio shows on cassette. Why isn’t it enough for kids nowadays* to create their own Estate Agents’ firm by collecting details from local agents, tippexing out the logos, and drawing in their own? What child wouldn’t enjoy setting up their own pretend appointment diary? Or perhaps that was just us.
Belle though seems oftentimes incapable of entertaining herself, or showing any initiative when it comes to independent play. Is this normal? Is it just the result of a childhood crammed with technology? Or is it something else?
Personally, I blame the parents.
*I do appreciate that the use of the expression ‘kids nowadays’ means I am properly old and will probably soon start reading the Daily Mail.