A Boring Breakthrough

Once upon a time, my son came to me and said, “I’m bored.” I replied, “Sweet son of mine, you have more toys in your room than most children in the world will ever see. Go build a bridge for your dump truck.” At that, my son smiled sweetly and ran excitedly to the living room to begin his new building endeavor. And he was never bored again because he knew how good he had it. The End.

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These are the things I fantasize about (that and sleeping in until 9am).

As any parent, or child for that matter, knows the “I’m bored” scene is rarely happily ever after… although sometimes miracles do happen.

A few days ago, Ian came out to the kitchen and started it. “I’m boorrred,” he whined. I used to get really mad whenever my kids complained of being bored until I finally figured out that if I simply gave them some Mommy-time when this happened, they would usually return to happily playing with their toys afterward.

This particular day, I realized that I hadn’t spent one blessed minute of meaningful time with Ian, so we read together… two books to make up for my neglect misdemeanor, and we did a puzzle. Problem solved, or so I thought.

But instead of leaving me alone returning to his toys, he had the nerve to lay on the kitchen floor and say it again… and again, “I’m bored… I’m bored.” I fired back with the usual parental jargon.

“All these toys and you’re bored; that’s ridiculous.”

“Go make your own fun. I’m not here to entertain you.”

“I can help you NOT be bored.”

Until I finally gave him my extremely creative, one-of-a-kind ultimatum. “If I hear you say you’re bored one more time, you’re going to your room.”

Of course within the next 30 seconds, my boy uttered the offending phrase and was promptly sent to his room. At least I was left in peace to think about the exchange while furiously stirring my slowly thickening cornstarch pudding.

That’s when I decided to break out the big guns. When my pudding was finally finished, I grabbed a picture from my desk where I had strategically placed it a few weeks ago for such a time as this.

I walked into Ian’s room and sat down beside him. I told him I was sad to hear he was bored when he had all these amazing toys at his fingertips. Then I showed him the Heifer International brochure from my desk, pictured on the back were three little boys playing with their toys.

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Obviously these toys were the barest of the bare, certainly not even worth playing with compared to the battery operated, smooth, molded plastic multitude of toys Ian owns.

Ian looked at the picture; his flippant response broke my heart. “That’s boooring,” he muttered as he looked away.

Experiment fail.

After telling him he could come out of his room when he was ready to play (and not complain), I walked back to the kitchen with a heaviness in my heart.

Ten minutes later, Ian came into the kitchen holding four toys in his hands.

“Mom, where’s the bag of things you’re going to take to the store to sell? I want to sell my toys.”

Now there’s been a lot! of discussion in our household about money recently, more specifically about the kids being responsible for buying their own toys. The kids are also aware that people sell things in order to get money. They have even gone so far as to try to sell some junk, err… I mean toys, in the front yard. I think they’ve raked in a whopping 25 cents so far.

I was genuinely dismayed as Ian stood there asking to sell his perfectly good toys in order to buy new ones so he wouldn’t be bored. I was sure he was remembering the two carloads of baby things I took to the Reuse-It Shop this summer, thinking that I gotten paid for those things, even though at the time I had explained it was a donation.

I tried to explain it to him again, “Ian, the bag is downstairs, but I’m not selling those things. We give the things to the store to sell, and the store gives the money to people who don’t have as much as we do. We don’t get any money for what we give to the store.”

“I know,” he stated. “Where’s the bag? I want to sell my toys.”

“But Ian, you’re not going to get any money if you put your toys in that bag. The store will sell them to help other people.”

“I Knoooow!” he declared, frustration edging into his voice. “I want someone else to play with my toys.”

What??? Wow! He got it! He understood! And I had been too frustrated to remember that to Ian the word “sell” also means donate or borrow (as in Ian “sells” books from the library).

Not only that, I realized that his statement of “that’s boring” after he saw the picture wasn’t flippant in the least. He was stating how those toys appeared to him… boring. Hence he decided to give away his toys to those little boys so they could have better toys.

My heart overflowed. (And I was reminded never to assume.)

I know we won’t have this meaningful ending every single time he’s bored. Another use or two and the picture will lose its punch. But at six years old, maybe he’s starting to get it, to care about people he’s never met before.

At this point in time, I couldn’t ask for more.