When my children were growing up in the 1970s, I thought then and believe just as strongly today that entertaining them every waking moment was not an entry under “skills of good mothering.” And they turned out fine regardless. They would tell you to this day that when one or both of them complained “I’m bored” my usual answer was “boredom is a state of mind.” I believed also that in order to connect to the creativity inside that we’re all born with, you have to spend time alone. I look at kids today–all ages–with ipods or mobile phones clipped to their ears, and wonder when if ever do they ever let themselves come face to face with … well, how to be bored without going crazy. To coin a phrase I heard in a lecture today, 95% of life is boring. I’d say less than that percentage but then I’ve reached the age where the clock is ticking faster, and I learned when I was a child that when you’re forced to do boring things, the best thing you can do is live in your head for the duration. As a child, when forced to do chores that bored me to tears, I’d make up some story to go around it that made it more exciting. Setting the table, for instance, was to imagine myself a waiter in a fancy restaurant and making the table look as elegant as possible with the items on hand. I think you get the idea. Boredom really does begin in the head. Like life, how you handle it depends pretty much on your attitude.
Here’s what one o’the nine of my uncles had to say about learning to entertain yourselves if you were lucky enough to be born as he was, a country boy.
When I was a boy in the thirties and forties there were no rock concerts for us to attend, and very seldom did we get to go into town and see a movie, so we learned to entertain ourselves when we had free time from working in the fields. I remember once my brother and I decided to have a chicken and rice supper on the river bank one Saturday night. We invited some of the other teenage boys to join us.
Now to have chicken and rice you must first have a chicken, so my brother and I decided to steal one from my mother and daddy. Mother would have gladly given us one, but we thought it more fun to steal it I guess. On Friday afternoon we caught the two chickens and tied their legs together, went through the field into the woods, then walked to the bridge that went across the river. We hid the chickens under the bridge until Saturday night.
When we all gathered at the bridge on Saturday night, we discovered the chickens had gotten away and all we found was two eggs. Now you can’t make chicken pileau without a chicken. Someone had a brilliant idea. We would kill a bird with the shotgun and have bird and rice.
The only bird we could find in the dark with a flashlight was a great big owl. We decided to have rice and owl. So we shot the owl, cleaned it, and cut the head off and threw it aside. There were those two great big pitiful eyes there on the ground looking up at us.
Still, we filled the pot with the owl and about three pounds of rice and began to boil it. The rice began to multiply as it boiled, so we had to dip about three fourths of it out. When we decided it was done, we each got us a large plate full. But we could not cut the owl. It was then we discovered that owl does not cook as fast as rice.
We decided to just eat the rice and forget the owl. It proved hard, however, to eat the rice and forget the owl when we still could see those two big eyes there on the ground looking up at us.
Just in case your appetite has been whetted for Owl Pileau, however, here is a recipe:
One large owl, one pound of rice boiled in river water, salt and pepper to taste.
I love these stories. They are so completely foreign to the way I grew up, but my mother also never felt the need to entertain me. She would tell me to go out and play or sit down and twiddle my thumbs. The problem solved itself when I learned to read, but then she would complain that I never heard what she was saying, or I should get out more.
I remember “Boredom is a state of mind,” but the one I cite more often now is the other refrain we used to hear: “No, you’re just over-entertained.” Ha.
Great story!!!! Isn’t it amazing how we managed as children without all the stuff kids have now? TV time was limited at my parents house. We were told to go outside and play. If I couldn’t find anyone to play with, there were always books to read — a habit still with me today.
And no thanks on the owl pilau. LOL
Here’s another recipe for your uncle’s cookbook. In Maine, the locals prepare coot, a homely bird that somewhat resembles a duck. You take one good-sized coot and toss it into a pot of boiling water. Add a brick that has been soaked in kerosene. Boil for three hours. Remove the coot and eat the brick. I haven’t tried this…we don’t have coots in Pittsburgh.
Hmm, 95% of life is boring they said? I’m afraid I can’t agree with that one.
I was an only child and still, very seldom did I utter the words, “I’m bored.” I had my books, my toys and my mom probably did entertain me more often than my friends who had siblings, but she also taught me to love and enjoy my own company. Which to this day, I do.
I’m a people person, however, I crave “my” time throughout the day…..for my writing, knitting, reading, etc. I truly have always enjoyed my own company. Yet, I have many friends who do not and always have to be with other people doing something.
It’s an interesting subject.