I can remember a time when I was very young and I complained to my mother about being bored. “I’d love to be bored,” she’d tell me with exasperation. If I pushed it and was whiny, she’d threaten, “If you want something to do, there’s plenty to do around the house here, and I’ll give you some chores.” This was usually followed by a demand that I go outside and play or find something to do with my sister. Options not available to my 6-year old, who is an only child being raised in the current overprotective environment that doesn’t really make it possible for me to let him outside alone to play.
I have a small back patio and there’s a patch of dirt next to it that the kid will play in sometimes. He brings out his knights and pirates and Matchbox cars and they all get quite filthy and have a good time. But he doesn’t want to do that all the time, and I can’t blame him. He constantly asks to watch TV, even though he knows his screen time is limited and doesn’t include the middle of a weekend afternoon.
He acts, as I suppose we all did, as if he is the only child who has ever been saddled with boredom.
Truly, I heard my mother’s voice coming out of my mouth yesterday, telling him how I wished I could be bored, how long it’s been since I could remember ever being bored. We had a full and busy day yesterday, what I thought was a good mix of things that needed to get done (grocery shopping, cooking, showers/baths) and fun things (more than 2 hours at the pool, during which I have to be constantly in the water playing with him and watching him as he cannot swim, working on a Lego kit together, having a dance party). And yet the minute my attention is drawn to something else – a phone call, the necessity to cook foods for our week ahead so that we have meals ready to quickly reheat during the week – he’s whiny and petulant.
His father has always preferred to structure his free time around doing kid-focused things when he is with our son. I prefer not to parent that way. I play with my kid, but not every minute of the day, leaving the dishes to be done after 9pm or whatever. I think it’s better my son learn to find something to do with his time than be doted on every minute. So it’s a challenge, as I’m the “mean” parent. Which is fine. Things are a little better since I’ve been living alone for a year and I make my own rules, but it’s still an adjustment for him when he first gets here for my week, not having constant entertainment.
Playdates remain effusive and out of reach. It always looks easier to people who are on the outside. People who have more than one kid, or whose kids have a built in social structure either of nearby cousins or neighborhood kids or children of parents they have over regularly. I drop D off so early for school and pick him up so late (from before/after care) that I never see any other parents. Contact information for other parents is strictly guarded and not disseminated by school or camp. Notes I’ve sent with my son to be given to the teacher so she can give to another child, so their parent can see the invitation, go unanswered. There were a few kids at his birthday party and we all talked about getting together over the summer, but they’re busy like I am, and most of their kids have siblings so it’s just not a priority for them to find a playmate for their child; they already have several. Parents I know live far or their kids are different ages and not compatible with D. I’ve tried, really. But playdates have been almost a complete fail. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a giant house in a gorgeous suburban subdivision and instead live in an apartment. Maybe it’s because people think my kid is too loud and hyper. Maybe it’s divorce stigma. Who knows.
I yelled at him yesterday, which I try to keep to a minimum, because I just asked him to PLEASE give me an hour and a half so I could get all the goddamned cooking done for the week, and he just wouldn’t stop. Mom, watch this. Mom, come in here. Mom, Mom, Mom, I’m bored. You’re no fair. He spent the time doing everything he isn’t supposed to – jumping on the furniture and beds, trying to get stuff off of high shelves, playing with everything except things that are actually toys – my rolling pin, the desk chair. I can’t just go get a new desk chair because he was bored and fucking around with it and broke it, and at some point I just lost my patience.
I had too much coffee trying to get everything done, too late in the day. I worked all afternoon to hit his sleep time on time, thinking I would magically be able to relax and go to bed early after he was down. Instead, I laid awake all night, unable to sleep and endlessly cycling about the panic of not being able to sleep. I realized I didn’t have any dinner at some point, maybe 2 a.m. and went out to the kitchen to eat some yogurt, which is really horrible at that hour. I went in and watched D sleeping and felt bad that his life isn’t better, even though I know it’s better than some.
It’s so hard, this parenting thing.