I flew Jet Blue with the kids this week. My kids are frequent Jet Blue flyers, and usually consider the time spent aboard munching animal crackers and gorging on the Cartoon Network at 30,000 feet at least as exciting as anything we ever do once we actually get where we are going. Sure, there is always that pause in programming when they push back from the gate and tell us how to fasten our seatbelts, but my kids have learned not to panic. Television shall return.
Until this flight. Ten minutes passed, then twenty. By the time the seatbelt sign went off, and the kids had started to ask me when the TVs would come on again approximately four times a minute, I noticed one flight attendant pushing a button on the ceiling, then running to check the TVs in the first row, then throwing up his hands, then doing it again. And again.
“We have attempted a manual restart of our DirectTV,” he finally announced over the loudspeaker. “And… we will attempt it again.”
The kids all looked at me, stricken.
“Did that man say no TV?” Maggie hissed.
“He said maybe no TV,” I admitted, stomach in shoes.
“But…” Maggie struggled with her words. “But Mom! I’m… BORED!”
My kids don’t know how to be bored. I don’t think any of our kids do. When there’s DVDs at the dentist, and in the back seat of the minivan, and a 3DS or seven at every sleepover, how are they supposed to know? My daughter gets a healthy dose of nothing-to-do every weekend at her brothers’ two 2-hour-plus Little League games (especially since she does not yet understand baseball). But after twenty minutes, tops, she weasels my smartphone out of my purse and sits on a park bench playing Toca Tailor. (Great app, by the way.)
There’s no moment that can’t be filled by a screen, and I’m no better at resisting its call. When I was at Maggie’s two-hour-plus tap recital two weeks ago- in which she appeared for all of ninety seconds with another girl standing directly in front of her- I was just SO BORED sitting there that I became physically uncomfortable. When the Lollipop Guild launched into their third reprise, I sneaked out to “use the restroom,” which really meant checking Facebook in the lobby. With about twenty-five other parents doing the same thing.
But on Jet Blue this week, it was my kids’ unfamiliarity with boredom that struck me. It was less that they were scared of it- more like they had never had this strange sensation before and were not sure what would happen next. What did happen? Some Hangman, some coloring with Mom, some reading of actual paper books. My two boys played “Pokemon Uno,” and when I said, “I didn’t know that was a thing,” Connor said, “It wasn’t. Until just now.”
No one was more annoyed than I that Jet Blue jammed us with the broken TVs. But it was a reminder that boredom-coping is a skill, and if our modern age does not often ask it of our children, my own skills have become a little rusty as well.
Do you ever worry that your kids don’t know how to be bored?