One Good Thing #3: The Value of Boredom

My daughter Ella celebrated her eighth birthday yesterday.

When I was eight-years-old, I was a student at the Lancaster Waldorf school, the only school I’d known, and my day-to-day experience was not much different from my daughter’s. I went to school, I came home. I lived for the weekends, for summer. Even then, I recall my middle childhood as a time of profound boredom punctuated by rare shots of excitement.

I cannot say whether all young children share this experience. My son Owen seems to live a life of near-constant excitement or agitation, of ceaseless energy.

But Ella is much like me as a young child: She dwells in boredom.

Ella’s refuge, like everyone these days, is the screen: the games she plays on my iPhone, games like Minecraft and Roblox, which strike me, whenever I happen to look at the screen, as pointless and ugly.

Ella loves these games. Whenever she’s played for some time, I can see in her eyes the serene, drugged look of an addict at the peak of her high, and whenever I attempt to take the phone away she lashes out in uncharacteristic ways, crying with outrage.

It’s a terrible moment, when I force boredom upon her. Yet so often her boredom is generative, a space where imagination is made of necessity, where her own thoughts have the capacity to delight even in the midst of the most mundane of afternoons.


Very often, of course, Ella’s boredom leads to an impulse to create.

In the coming weeks, we’ll all have to lean into boredom, and I suspect, as usual, that despite my intentions, I will end up looking to my young daughter for inspiration and succor–instead of the other way around.

Below is a sampling of the fruits of Ella’s boredom, beginning with her advice to herself for boredom…

You are bored so follow these rules: read, color, think, think about life,
if you have enough time, watch something
Screenplay: Written with Julia and Emma
Ella filled each page of this tiny notebook with a tiny drawing
Ella’s first book: Sad (from the “Feeling Series”)
The protagonist (?) of Sad
Five Bold Predictions for the Future: Balls will change, no more cars, new food, cool jobs, huge foods