Wednesday, July 09, 2008


by Hannah Roveto

The surest sign of summer is the clonkety-clonk of large and growing feet around my house. Two voices have joined the cat and I, insisting they are exhausted when asked to do something, and bored beyond belief as soon as I let them rest. One critical detail: we are the only family in town, in New England, in the U.S. and perhaps the world to not have a gaming system.

Not that we aren't considering a system, although not as an immediate option or even a summer addition to our home. Not that the system wouldn't replace limited time on the TV, computer, and DS and come with rules. We haven't made the leap yet, and we are hesitant to do so. We do not see it as anything we really want. "Augh!" They groan, eyeballs spinning. "But why not?"

Because... I want them to live in three dimensions. Instead of playing Guitar Hero, one kid actually plays the guitar and the drums, and the other sings and is thinking about keyboard lessons. Instead addition to watching tightly edited television, one kid makes and edits videos and has done one for a local grocery. Instead of playing Dance Dance Revolution, one kid dances, dances on stage and can play both goalie and kick goals. Because both my kids are a bit obsessive and I worry it will be a battle to keep the primary focus on the 3-D worlds they have found for themselves in that time and space that being bored allows just before you decide what you want -- need, in your soul -- to do with your time.

Then I hear this: "You spend all your free (!) time on the computer." True enough. I spend my time writing, creating new worlds and new beings whom I need to see in three dimensions in order for others to experience them as well. I need to relive long-ago family vacations spent in piney campgrounds, or the feel of a baseball bat in my hands when it connects with the ball, or the summer spent working at a veterinary hospital, the sweet smell of disinfectant and the musk of dog and cat, and the paralyzing tension in the steps of a German Shepherd being brought into a room soon after an old, ill dog was put to sleep. I need to remember how a face crinkled just so with laughter, the precise pitch of a shriek of happiness and not anger, whether a particular person strode or lumbered or sashayed. I need to pull from the 3-D world to build a dream in the 3-D world: a real story, start to finish that may make its way into the real world some day.

I want my children to know how to live in three dimensions and to find their dreams. I want them to be bored, to have space and time to find what they want most in themselves, to nurture it themselves, to live it for themselves. Maybe because I waited so long in my life to dig deep and push my own dreams forward, I am being a bit obsessive myself on this issue. I freely admit this. What's the big deal, right? Maybe it's enough to realize that there is a 2-D and 3-D world at all, and that the rewards of 3-D are richer and fuller. Maybe by living life in 3-D and leading by example, we can all show -- rather than tell -- children in our lives and others as well how to realize their dreams in multiple dimensions, too.


Anonymous said...

I remember long, endless summers sitting on the back stoop, groaning, "I'm so bored! There's nothing to do!"

I think boredom is the most misunderstood emotion. Now, I love nothing more than having nothing to do. And I'm never bored. Having nothing to do leaves my brain free to think up stories, have conversations in my head. Long drive to the in-laws? No problem! I don't even put the radio on. Wait an hour for the doctor. Cool!

I fear for the next generation that has never experienced boredom or learned how to cope with nothing to do. Boredom is the mother of creativity.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

It truly is. Although the look on a child's face when you explain that, well... Sounds like a MasterCard commercial. Electric Guitar: $200, Video editing software: $150. Getting bored enough to realize cooler to be the guitar-playing movie-maker than the guy who scored high on Guitar Hero: priceless!


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

My 22 year-old son and I were just talking about this--he actually thanked me for giving him summers that weren't over-scheduled--which gave him (and his brother) time to explore the neighborhood, build (and rebuild) a fort, play stickball in the street with all the neighbor kids, get bored, get yelled at by whatever mom saw them misbehaving, and generally have a summer of his own making.

I was thrilled.

Lisa Marnell said...

Don't they say that boredom is the mother of invention? Or have I mixed metaphors again?

Great post! I see too many kids at my schools who don't have an ounce of creativity.

I'll never forget a beautiful spring day in Marshfield, MA when two boys I worked with said they were having a play date. I asked them what they would play together? (soccer, baseball, remember cops and robbers? home free?) They told me about a new video game.


Too much screen time in general.

Joanne said...

I love your philosophy Hannah. Stick to your convictions; someday your children will thank you for it. We never went for the gaming systems either, as my daughter says now, it's all just "simulated" fun. Better to have the real thing!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Living in 3-D takes more time and effort, but the more we surround ourselves with people who do so, the easier it becomes. Take the opportunity to join a writers' group, for example. Suddenly all my 2-D writing got a little plumper, pushed at its journalistic edges, wriggled into a new dimension. Could not have done it without others committed to something more, as well.


Anonymous said...

I think we surely have the same family!