I have been spending a lot of time recently with my boyfriend and his teenage son and I have learned one of most popular phrases in the teenage vocabulary is "I'm Bored". Now, I don't know how many people who will read this have had the luxury of spending time with 13 year old kids these days, but it seems that being "bored" is a common theme among adolescents these days. Just the other day I was watching an episode of Two and A Half Men where Jake, the teenage boy, was grounded from basically everything. After being given his punishment, his dad tells him to go find something to do that he isn't punished from. He sulks out of the room only to return less than three seconds later saying, "I'm Bored." Now, if you haven't been around this generation recently, you may laugh and think that it is being over-exaggerated. It's not.
Now, I don't know if it is that they are genuinely bored or if it is that in today's world, they find so much stimulation from so many sources (video games, computers, MySpace, Facebook, television, movies, cell phones, text messages, etc) that having even two minutes of time where their mind is not being used seems like eternity to them. I guess this is where being an avid reader pays off. You see, I am never bored. Even in the times where I feel there is absolutely nothing to do, I can grab a book. Thanks to the invention of the Kindle, if I don't like the book I am reading, I can simply download a new one without even getting out of my chair. I get to occupy my mind in someone else's real or imagined world. I think the ability to read for entertainment is something that is sadly slipping through society's fingers. All of our technology allows us to get information fed to us visually and audibly with no real imagination required.
I had a conversation with my 9 year old son the other day where I reminded him about the the time he learned how to sing Silent Night in sign language. He tried to explain to me how he didn't remember how to do that anymore because he didn't really need to know sign language since he didn't know anyone who couldn't hear. I tried to get him to imagine that one day, he could meet someone who had a lot of cool stories to share, maybe another kid who liked to play all the same video games as him and that if he still knew and understood sign language, he could communicate with that child about the things they both enjoyed. His response, "Pfft, like I am EVER going to meet any one like that!" I could not get him to imagine with me this one possibility. It's no surprise to me then when I try to get him to read a book these days. "Books are boring," he says. "They are all full of fake stories and just a bunch of words." I have tried to explain to him that when you read the words, you make the movies in your head. He wants no part of it. He used to love to read when he was younger. He would sit in his room for an hour or more reading the books on his bookshelf. Recently, when faced with the fact that his bedroom is becoming overcrowded he announced that it would be "fine to take out his bookshelf because he never reads anyway." UGH.
And so, what I fear is that I too will be innundated with thousands of "I'm Bored" statements coming from my own son in the coming years. It appears that as part of the new millenium, we need to add a new chapter to that ever helpful Parenting Manual titled "How To Entertain Your Child 24/7". Until that comes out, I think I will just pretend that I am hearing impaired and only respond in sign... who knows, that might help to spark his imagination again.