Magazine article The Spectator

Nothing Doing

Magazine article The Spectator

Nothing Doing

Article excerpt

Do your children ever complain of boredom?

If they do, what is your first response? To drop everything and get down on your knees and play? Or to shrug your shoulders and say, just as your parents might have said to you, 'It's only boring people who get bored. . .

now go away'?

If you're like me, it'll be the former.

And if you aren't the person getting down on your hands and knees, you'll have employed someone to do it in your stead. Don't worry -- you, me -- we're not alone.

There are millions of us middleclass types in London who worry that if we make our kids build their own hideout in the garden, or organise their own wretched game of hide-andseek, the social services might come acalling; that if we do not micro-manage their every waking minute, that if we do not have them enrolled in an after-school activity every day of the week so that they are in a perpetual state of ashen, low-level fatigue; that if we let them, as we did, just come home and chill after school, we are somehow short-changing them, cruelly neglecting to unlock the, er, magical potential within.

Bloody parenting classes! What have they done to the next generation? 'Bred a load of overstimulated ADD-suffering louts who'll end up wanting to do their gap years in Barnes Wetlands, that's what, ' as one dissatisfied 'pupil', a W14 media mother of two (who'd rather not be mentioned by name) complains.

Boredom. Ennui. That exquisitely 'savage torpor' as William Wordsworth called it, which you get from four hours of watching the test card or tracing rude words on a misty car window, of being so numbed out of your skull you have to create an imaginary friend.

Kids today, they have no idea, do they?

The only time for vague reflection they ever get is when they are forced to sit on the naughty step. The only example they get of adults engaged in the act of doing nothing is watching Big Brother, which is perhaps why the horrid programme is the huge success it is.

As for finger-tracing in the car. I don't know about you, but you should see the charging up of Nintendo DS Lites and PSPs and portable DVDs and rewinding of story-tapes that has to take place round our way (not to mention the towel affixing to windows to keep the sun off the screens) if the journey is going to be anything more than 30 minutes.

But we must not blame ourselves entirely. In this CrackBerry-addicted, gum-snapping society of ours where the void must be filled at all times, where achievement, achievement, achievement is fetishised at the expense of everything else, where the tyranny of choice means we are never actually satisfied with or engaged in anything, always (rightfully) wondering if there's something better going on somewhere else -- no wonder the collective threshold has been so lowered, no wonder we've all, including our children, got figurative theatre leggie before the curtain has even gone up. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.