Tales from summer holidays, Perth Courier, July 28/09.
Bored? Clean the toilet.
Depending on when you are reading this, there are approximately 42 days left until school starts. But who’s counting?
I think the number of times parents check the calendar is directly proportionate to the number of rainy summer days.
There are lots of moms and dads out there asking, “What the heck do I do with a whiny child who keeps proclaiming boredom?” There are all kinds of possible solutions to this problem, such as sending them to boot camp, feeding them to lions or joining a circus (either you or them, but not both at the same time).
If you’re looking for a solution that is a little less, um, onerous, I have heard consistently that children who complain of being bored should be made to do chores. Specifically, they should clean the toilet.
If I could make that happen, we would have The Cleanest Toilet in the Land! But how?
When I make the suggestion, it goes something like this:
Boychild: “Iiiiiii’m booooooooored!”
Mom Ineeda: “Well, then clean the toilet.”
Boychild, emphatically: “NO!!” (I can’t really emphasize the emphatically enough. It’s much more emphatic in person.)
Mom Ineeda: Silence.
Boychild: Apparently not bored anymore.
I guess, in a way, the strategy works because the subject is dropped, although I still don’t have The Cleanest Toilet in the Land. I know. You were just dying to know that vital information. Girlchild is not so easily afflicted with boredom, which is the magical thing about being three-going-on-Big Girl. There are times when I know she is bored, but she articulates it with dramatic sighs and by asking for snacks. I can sympathize; I eat when I’m bored, too, which is part of the reason why I am embracing The Cult of Running and its subsidiary branch called The World of Pain. More on that another time.
Fortunately, Boychild and Girlchild usually play well together, and their creative indoor pretend games have saved us all on more than a few miserable rainy days. Eventually, though, someone gets bored.
This can happen even after we’ve had a full slate of fun and excitement, which is frustrating. I sometimes have to push down the urge to go all heavily parental on them when the boredom thing arises. What I want to say is, “Are you kidding me? You’re bored? I would give my eye teeth for the opportunity to play all day and go places and splash around in the wading pool and romp on the swing-set or go for rambling bike rides or have picnics. Sure, I can still do all that stuff as the grown-up, but someone has to assemble toys and organize trips and set up the pool and get the bikes out and prepare the picnic. Somehow, it’s just not quite the same.”
So I tell them to clean the toilet.
Fifteen years from now these short people will likely wish they could climb into the Way Back Machine and enjoy those carefree days when they could play all day and mysterious elves magically cleaned the toilet while they were sleeping. For now, though, they don’t know how good they’ve got it.
Here’s an example. Don’t tell him I told you this, but last week Boychild threw an enormous fit because we told him we were going to the beach. “But I don’t waaaaaaant to go the beach!” he wailed. “I waaaaant to go to the indoor pool!”
Sigh. What I wanted to say was, “Fine. Go and clean the toilet.” What I said was, “Are you kidding me? If my parents had suggested we were going to the beach we would have been ecstatic!” At least that’s how I remember it. Meanwhile, Girlchild was looking for her swimsuit and packing a beach bag.
After some cajoling (Can you believe it? We had to cajole him to go to the beach!) we got to the beach. We had a lovely time frolicking in the water. We made friends with a group of happy women who helped me find my lost earring in the grass. We ran into neighbours and had a nice chat. I’m pretty sure we created a happy childhood memory after all. Who woulda thunk it.
We left the toilet for the elves to clean.