An article in the Herald by Danielle Wright outlined 20 excellent ways "To travel with kids and stay sane". I found 19 of her points interesting but No 3 was life-changing:
"Don't bring DVD players in the car; let children experience boredom from time to time, it will make being at the destination even sweeter."
When I was a kid boredom was a big part of life. I was bored all the time. Jeez I was bored. Achingly bored. Especially on holidays. So bored I'd spend days hiffing rocks at trees. The nearest friends were miles away. There was no texting or social media. Just me, smashing stuff and watching TV. So bored.
My kids on the other hand should never be bored. We bend over backwards to make sure they have stuff to do. Most of our luggage on a recent trip up north was electronic anti-boredom devices.
They still got bored.
If my Dad had to go to work in the weekend he would take me and sit me outside his office. I'd be there all day. Nothing to do. Just sit and wait on a chair for hours. I'd sit there and think up stories to pass the time.
In retrospect it was great parenting. The intense, mind-numbing boredom forced my brain to squeeze out its own entertainment. It also forced me to write rude words on the under-sides of chairs and flush soap down the toilets. Fun I never would have created had I had something to do.
I was called into work the other weekend. My kids took headphones, iPads, four nerf guns, shields, swords, sharpies and 22 tonnes of Lego.
That's all going to change. Since reading Danielle's article I have decided to bore the crap out of my kids on a daily basis. They are going to be bored like we were bored. We turned out great and we were so bored we sat through The Littlest Hobo. Boredom made us who we are. I believe it's the brutal boredom that motivates us to do amazing things.
It was a will to fight off late 80s New Zealand boredom that pushed Brendon and Nathan McCullum out on to the streets of South Dunedin to smash balls around. It was boredom that sent Sir Ed up the mountain and boredom that split the atom. If these great Kiwis had been completely entertained all the time they wouldn't have changed the world.
But how do you force extreme boredom on your children?
Making them watch the news is a good start. Especially the weather. We adults find Dan Corbett informative and amusing, but kids would rather gouge their eyes out than listen to a list of temperatures in towns they aren't even in. Force your kids to watch the news. The boredom will send them rushing out into the world.
Take you kids to garden centres. Nothing could be more boring for a child than rows of plants in pots. Other brutally boring activities to force on your kids include visiting open homes, helping around the house and supermarket shopping.
Don't buy them anything on these trips. Don't feed them or bring any activities for them. Let that sweet boredom rain down upon them.
We all spent our childhoods bored out of our minds and look at the amazing things we have achieved. We had it so much harder than our children do and it made us great. The lust not to be bored is a powerful motivator. If you want your kids to go a long way in life you owe it to them to bore the living crap out of them. Like our parents did to us.
And if the boredom methods I have outlined here don't work, try going on and on and on to them about how much harder you had it as a kid. That's really mind-numbing.
Better still, read them this article.