It’s not just the tech that is buffering around here.
The kids are watching some film or other on Netflix when I hear them sigh. When I investigate I see the circle on the screen spinning round and round. Inundated with info and struggling to find space or capacity or to hear itself above all the other techno babble, the computer is buffering.
“I’m bored” moans the 7 year old when faced with this momentary glitch in his passive entertainment. “Being bored” is a new phrase for him and a thoroughly depressing one at that. I feel a pang of shame: how did I let this happen?
In a flash, he’s gone from being exhilarated at finding his toes, to a couple of seconds of buffering bringing on utter despondency.
In a cruelly ironic twist, this awareness of boredom seems to coincide with a time when I am unable to move without stumbling upon some action figure, or Innotab charger, or bag of books, or second-hand puzzle. Our house is fit to burst with toys, it’s decorated with items chosen specifically with the kids in mind, we have even given over the kitchen table to glitter. Playdates role in. New clubs pop up.
There is no time to do anymore. How can he be bored?
Have I spoiled them? Do they have too much? Are they watching too many adverts that leave them feeling their current toys are somehow lacking? Is school now so structured that they are now unable to work out how to entertain themselves in whatever free time they have?
Am I not a little bored too?
With all of our stuff, all of our luck, all of our security it is tempting to dismiss this boredom as a first world problem. It probably is, but it’s a problem I want to solve: I am not going to let us waste all we have under a cloud of feeling generally uninspired.
I look at the 7-year-old, who just had his birthday, and I look at me, soon to turn 40 and I find some surprising similarities. It seems we have both reached some sort of crossroads. The mid-life one is not a surprise. But the 7-year-old’s is.
When I think about it, there seems some subtle but profound change comes when a child reaches 7. It’s like he has taken a step away from engaging 100% with external experiences, and a little step inwards.
He seems to be processing, thinking, reflecting, wondering how he is going to interpret all the stimuli life throws at him. Inundated with all this new information, I realise perhaps the 7-year-old isn’t bored at all. I think he might be buffering.
There’s so much to listen to, to think about, to reflect upon, to decide upon, to worry about, to take delight in. The 40-year-old and the 7-year-old can both sense a change in the road that lies ahead. We are both a little paralysed by all that might come next. It’s easier to claim boredom than deal with it.
As with the computer when it is overwhelmed, I reckon it’s time to shut down a few apps: stash away the lesser-used toys, lose the charger for the Innotab, remember not to worry too much about the homework. Or, in my case, let the more thankless chores slip for a while, turn off Facebook, have faith that the next part of my journey will make itself clear through the fog soon.
But for all this to happen, we have to stop for a while. Perhaps keep a pen at hand and a book. Keep the doors open to the outside world, and our arms open for cuddles.
We need to not beat ourselves up or fear that we are not just bored but, worse still, boring.
We’re not bored son, we’re buffering.
6 thoughts on “We’re Not Bored Son, We’re Buffering”
Interesting. I have a seven year old too and she seems also to be going through a real stage of processing. In her case she’s taken to writing great long epic stories as if she’s trying to get all her thoughts out of her head. She also now reads a LOT and asks a LOT of questions!
Yep – those questions just keep coming don’t they! It seems such an important age (I guess every age is really) but one where he really is changing. I love that she’s writing stories. My 7 year old seems to have started rapping – which is very loud…. Thanks for reading and commenting.
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thank you 🙂
Yes. I think we all need more buffering time. I once read an article which I agreed with about kids lacking the time “to buffer” (be bored). (Example: kids who watch a show and play with the toys from that show, play out the stories they saw. That is, they are not making up their own stories but re-playing what they have seen). I believe kids need time to be “bored” because this time to think leads to real creativity. I believe this to be true. When we travelled, the boys had very few toys. Instead they observed, questioned, played imagination games, played with each other and other children. Now we are home – yes they are still attracted by the glitter of all things electronic (lets face it so are we) – they rarely play with toys, they mostly play group imagination games, they have just all joined scouts and they are interested in practical skills….
So having them time to “buffer” brought out their creativity, their social skills, their confidence, etc.
Yes. they still say occasionally “I’m bored…there is nothing to do”.