When I was a kid there were long, protracted periods of time where NOTHING happened. The house was silent aside from the ticking of the grandfather clock. There was no CBeebies, no IPad and no DVDs. There were no playdates, no child-friendly restaurants and no soft play. There was just me and Mum and my overweight cat- Kipper. Many Saturday afternoons I would sit idly on my top bunk staring out into the garden. It was grey and cold and NOTHING was going on.
‘Mum, I’m BORED!’ I’d shout from my bedroom – without even conjuring up the energy or enthusiasm to walk the few metres to where she sat hunched over her macrame flower pot- holder.
‘Well come and help me make this,’ she’d reply.
God macrame was boring. Sewing was also very boring. All the stuff that Mum did was boring. Except when she put the TV on. But there was nothing on the TV now.
‘I’m BORED!’ I’d shout again about three minutes later.
‘Only boring people get bored sweetie,’ she’s shout back, then silence.
No effort to come in and entertain me. No treats. No promise of a trip out in the car. Nothing. Just the clock and the cat and her boring macrame.
Eventually (after about half an hour of just staring) I’d drag my cassette recorder out and Kipper would lie on top of the Snoopy duvet (God I LOVED that duvet- it had ‘I Hate Monday’s’ scrawled all over it). I’d press record and ‘The Anniki Sommerville Top 40 Radio Show,’ would kick off. Sometimes I’d dress Kipper in a T-shirt and hat (the cat was way too chilled out to be normal). He would often then be one of my ‘surprise mystery guests’ and I’d interview him about his latest chart release. Occasionally Mum would peep her head round the corner to see what I was up to. She’d then head into the kitchen and start playing with her new ‘yoghurt machine’ which made pots of inedible stuff that tasted like mould.
I still have those tapes. They are EMBARRASSING. It’s not just the DJ voice (much deeper and quite creepy) but also the fact that I sing too. ‘Pass The Dutchie’ is possibly the worst. I also do an enthusiastic version of Buck Fizz’s ‘Land of Make Believe’. I’m happy that no one has cassette players because it means NO ONE will hear this stuff.
But it’s not about the tapes or the terrible singing. I just keep thinking back to the quiet in the house, the sound of the clock and the hours of time with nothing to do.
Sometimes it feels like we’re scared to let our kids get bored nowadays. Maybe it’s just me but I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time filling my daughter’s time up with painting, going to the park, play-dates, walks (oh and BAGS of TV too). And my time is filled too. I am rarely in the position where I’m sitting on the bed staring out the window (unless I’m sick). Caitlin Moran recently said that one of the reasons she enjoys hangovers so much is because they are a day to be selfish and do absolutely nothing. And I get that. There is not enough time spent doing nothing. Not enough time being bored.
I want to give my daughter the same experiences I had (without the terrible food and orange corduroy flares). I want her to be so desperately bored that she has to conjure up entertainmnent for herself. I want her to dress the cat up. I want her to stare and feel resentful and then maybe stare some more. I want her brain to fill up with ideas that come from nowhere. I want her to stare at the ceiling and see the cracks and the spider steadily crawling over the wall. I want her to hear nothing but the clock ticking. Tick tock. Tick tock.
I want her to be really, really bored.