My 5-year-old son, Luke, was in VPK during the school year, so he would have a few hours at home with just Mom and/or Dad, before any of his four older siblings arrived home. Usually, we are working, so we’re not the best playmates.
One day he tapped me on the hip and said, “Do you want to play a game? I’m bored.”
I was in the middle of something, so I told him that his sister, Kennedy, would be home in about 10 minutes.
“I’m more bored than that,” he said.
Now, imagine the horror of the summer boredom multiplier effect.
Every morning, Luke gets up and races around the house, working on his to-do list, which includes things like cleaning his room and straightening up an area of the house. I’d like to think that his motivation is to be helpful and because he is learning that cleanliness is the first step on the path to productivity, but I know better. For him, cleanliness is the first step on the path to video games.
We limit his video game time to about 45 minutes, and after that, he goes back to being bored. Books? Toys? Games? Boring, boring, boring.
And to make matters worse, now that it’s summer, he has an extra five or six hours to kill every day.
He’s not the only one. But my oldest three children are savvy enough not to verbalize their boredom. Their teenage survival instincts have taught them to drift silently from room to room, couch to couch, avoiding eye contact with either parent. Because there’s only one thing worse than being bored, and that’s being conscripted.
One day recently, I played tag with Luke, darting around furniture, staying just ahead of him. He started trash talking, reminding me that my real-life agility was as poor as my performance in Mario Kart.
“You’re so slow, Dad!” he said.
I should have been mature enough to ignore the insults, but I felt that I had to defend my honor.
“Why can’t you catch me, then, huh?” I asked.
“I can!” he said, picking up the pace.
The next time he tagged me, I left the room. Finally, he wandered into my bedroom.
“Dad, where are you?” he asked.
“In the bathroom,” I responded.
“But, but, but — you’re it!”
When we resumed the game, I was hoping that his older siblings would soon join in and take over, but there they sat, like the children in “The Cat in the Hat,” apparently waiting for a more entertaining reason to interrupt their couch routines.
“I need a break,” Luke said finally, and he collapsed on an arm chair, exhausted.
Running Luke to the point of exhaustion isn’t a bad outcome, I decided.
Motivating everyone else will be another challenge, but I have an idea that should work: “Time for a family meeting on goal-setting, everybody! Make goals, or your goals will be set for you.”