May 27, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Whatever I Say, Do the Opposite

Parenting is a lot more complicated than I thought. I’ve been a parent for almost 14 years now, and with most jobs, if I haven’t figured out how to do it right in 14 years, I should probably pack my bags and look for something new. I feel like I know less now than when I started.

Are there any grandparenting positions open? I feel like I’d be better at that.

I’m not a bad parent. Nobody is a bad parent, really, except bad parents. Everyone has noble intentions in some way. Very few of us go in with bad intentions. (“Here’s the plan: We’re going to have kids, and then we’re going to ruin their lives.”) It’s just way more complicated than that.

But, for example, one thing about parenting is that you want to teach your child to talk about his feelings with you, but only to an extent. He doesn’t have to tell you every time he’s bored. Because he’s bored a lot. A lot of times you’re like, “What are you doing?” and he says, “Nothing,” and he’s okay with it. In fact, he wants you to go away. But then other times he has nothing to do, and that becomes your problem. He’ll come right out and tell you. (“Oh, you’re finally bored? Awesome! Do all the chores you’ve been avoiding.”) But I’ve learned the hard way that nothing I suggest—even fun things—will actually quell their boredom except the one thing they already decided they wanted to do before they started asking me. They want to go to a friend. They want a screen. They want food coloring.

“You’re not bored. You’re never bored. You just want to ask me something that you know I’m going to refuse, so you’re giving me a problem and letting me come to your desired solution on my own.”

Kids would be great teachers.

But even though on some level we know this, we don’t want our kids to be “bored,” because then they come and interrupt us from the things we have to do that, it turns out, are way harder than anything our parents made us do. We don’t have time for these guessing games. But we always have this fear of what our kids will do if they’re bored, so we feel like we have to provide the entertainment. But here’s the question: If our kids never have to make their own fun, how are they ever going to entertain their bored kids? We’re not raising kids to be equipped with the things that we have to be equipped with to raise them.

And that’s why experts these days are saying that boredom is actually good for kids. They say that if a kid is bored and forced to come up with his own activities, he eventually discovers what he has a natural talent for that he can do going forward. This allows for a richer society where not everyone is doing the same thing. Because nowadays, most kids think their talents lie somewhere in the video game industry.

But this way your kids discover a hobby. For example, my kids discovered that they’re interested in bothering me every two seconds for something to do. That’s their hobby. Now they can grow up and figure out how to monetize that.

Now obviously too much boredom isn’t good, and kids have to be supervised somewhat. But that’s why we send them to school. Either they’ll pay attention and learn something, or they’ll be so bored they’ll figure out their own thing. That’s probably why all my teachers growing up were boring. They were boring, so instead of listening, I sat there and wrote stories. That’s how kids decide what they want to be.

But on the other hand, our kids see boredom as a punishment, because that’s all we’re allowed to do to them anymore. Everyone says that potching is out of vogue, so what do we do? Confiscate things? I’m supposed to buy my kids extra things so I can take them away if they don’t behave? Apparently.

But it doesn’t always work. I have one child, who, like me, has a serious imagination. He needs nothing. I can take things away all day, and his response is, “Okay, so I’ll pretend I still have it.”

Not that potching would help me anyway. I have another son who plays sports all day, and the injuries he gets on a daily basis and shrugs off are worse than anything I would ever do to him.

“A potch? Really? See this fingernail? It’s discolored because all my friends stepped on it. By mistake.”

I know! I’ll be nice to my grandkids! That’ll show ’em.

By Mordechai Schmutter


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He also has six books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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