To My Children, When They Are Bored

Hello, children! Mommy here. I know, obvs, right? Or don’t we say obvs anymore? I never know what’s up with the current lingo. I do know, because you just told me, that you are bored. Out of your mind.

And you know, that totally reminds me of when I was a kid. I hated to be bored. Of course, times were different back then. Do you want to hear about it?


Oh, come on – just listen. Just for a minute. You have nothing else to do, right?

I’m not going to tell you about the walk to school uphill both ways in three feet of snow, because my God, it wasn’t that long ago. We had school buses and if it snowed, we had a snow day, just like you. You know what we did on those snow days? Let me tell you. One thing we did was sit around and listen to the radio, hoping and praying to hear our favorite song so we could tape it. On a cassette. Unlike you, we couldn’t hear any song we wanted to, at any time, day or night. No, we had to press PLAY and RECORD at the exact same moment, and we never caught the whole song because we were invariably a few seconds late. And the DJ would always start talking before the song ended, so every time you played “Like a Virgin,” you also heard some guy named Turbo saying “. . . and that’s Madonna, coming in at number seven. . . ” And so on.

The clear ones were fancy.
The clear ones were fancy.

That was fun. You know what else was fun? Watching the movie Alien before I had my 12-year molars. You’re not familiar with Alien? That’s good, because you shouldn’t be. I shouldn’t have been either, but a) my parents were apparently idiots, and b) there was only so much to watch on TV, back then. Certainly there wasn’t any 24/7 children’s programming. No Kid’s Choice Awards. Never mind the awards – there was no kid’s choice at all. You watched Alien and if that meant you couldn’t sleep for several months afterward for fear that a small octopus might explode out of your guts and suction on to your face, well, that was your problem.

Sort of like this. But ON YOUR FACE.
Sort of like this. But ON YOUR FACE.

Speaking of scary. I’ll tell you about scary. Scary is answering a ringing telephone when you have no idea who is on the other end of the line. I promise you, you know nothing about fear until you have accidentally found yourself exchanging pleasantries with a drunk or otherwise volatile older relative for upwards of a minute. But that’s how it was, in those days; the phone rang and you picked it up. Period. Oh, and guess how many phones there were in the house? One! It was attached to the wall in the kitchen and if you wanted to talk on it you had to stay there. In the kitchen. In front of everybody.

Could you Google on that phone? Dude – are you kidding me right now? YOU COULDN’T GOOGLE ANYTHING AT ALL, EVER. There was no Google! There were only big, heavy hardcover books called encyclopedias, and if you wanted to know about polar bears, you had to first figure out if that subject would be in the “P” book or the “B” book. What I am saying is that basically, you couldn’t find out shit back then. If I were you, I would Google things all day long. Just because I could.

Google, 1981
Google, 1981

But, whatever. You’re bored and so nothing pleases you; no suggestion will be good enough. I get it. It’s tough. You know what I did for fun sometimes? I went outside and left my mother alone to smoke and drink coffee like a normal grown-up. I went outside because on the hottest days of summer, it was probably cooler out there than it was in the house. You don’t think we had air conditioning, do you? Wrong again, kid. No one had air conditioning, or if they did, we weren’t friends with them. We had a goddamned box fan on the floor and sure, it was fun to make your voice go all vibrato by talking real close to it, but that got old after 30 seconds tops. Especially once your mother heard you and came and smacked you in the back of the head with a paint stirrer. Those paint stirrers were way better quality than these crap balsa sticks they make today. They were thick and heavy-duty plastic with holes at intervals, which I guess were for better aerodynamics.

Wow! That really DOES cool it down in here!
Wow! That really DOES cool it down in here!

So, yeah. Outside, I’d invent some game to play by myself for a while, often involving pine needles and rocks. When I got bored of that I might walk to a friend’s house, going the long way around the block to avoid the two neighborhood thugs who always threatened to beat me up. They were boys, incidentally. I was a girl. They were allowed to threaten me because no one cared about bullying back then. “Fight your own battles,” my mother used to tell me, and so that’s what I did. Usually by crying and running as fast as I could while they laughed. They didn’t even bother to chase me. If they had chased me, I am pretty certain I’d have peed my pants or worse. I am telling you, they were dangerous times. But I survived, as you can –

Hey! Where are you going? What do you mean, you can’t sit here and listen to me? Suddenly you have other stuff to do? What could be more important than life lessons from your –

Oh, fine. Go do what you need to do. I’ll just sit here and reminisce all on my own.

No, it’s fine. Really.



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  1. Chuckling in a public place reading this.
    Stuff I did when I was bored: Made a tent out of my dads army parachute, made mud pies, sewing (badly) clothes for my dolls. Eventually getting on my bike a just riding. Sans helmet. Yes I am very old. Thanks for a trip down memory lane.

    1. Oh that is beautiful. The scent of decay. What did that go for per ounce? Or wait, what’s the metric version of an ounce?

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