"You are boring me back to death," was the punchline. It was delivered by a zombie sitting on a city bus, eavesdropping on two men talking up the goodness of Skittles candy. Yes, it was a commercial. And it was pretty hilarious. I laughed, loudly. Part of the reason why I was laughing was not so funny though. Earlier that day I had whispered something similar in the back of my brain as I played a fifth round of School Bus and Race Car Make a Birthday Cake with my 3-year-old son.
Please don't get me wrong; I love this little boy with everything I have. He's beautiful and sweet and funny and delightful. He's also, as I said, three. And as much as I enjoy and appreciate being able to spend time with my son in the afternoons (I work from home), too often it feels a little one-note.
I recently tried to broach this subject of The Borings with another mother at a rare lunch meet-up. I was prepared to hear a breathy, relive-tinged "I know, right?" However, before I had a chance to fully unpack my gripe, she said something that involved "loving every minute" and "wouldn't trade this for the world." I ended up nodding and smiling to the rest of her hymn, stuffing the topic back into my mouth along with the salad I was eating. Was this mother being honest, I wondered, or was the real truth scratching at the sides of her throat, too? Or maybe, what with the Mommy Wars going, she mistook me for the enemy, some Office Working Mother-sympathizer trying to see how happy she really was being just a mom.
I said nothing more about the monotony to anyone else, figuring it was another one of those facts of motherhood that I'd simply need to get used to and get over, like the state of post-breastfeeding boobs. I'd have to mumble my grumble and find ways to get through The Borings. And so my iPhone sneak-looks soon became long, studied stares, and I found myself rather invested in Words With Friends. Ugh, this useless, lingering "u"--my kingdom for an "s"! (Thankfully this was happening in the privacy of our home, otherwise I might have landed on this "helpful" tumblr blog.) I clung to these distractions despite feeling horrible about it. My son noticed, too. He even started interrupting my dumb smartphone time with pleas to play with him "without that." And still I kept moving toward the hi-res glow, determined not to be bored (back) to death.
The breaking point came one day at the local park. Like the Skittles zombie, I was listening in on a conversation. A father berating his dispirited wife about how utterly bored he was watching his two sons play. Lying on his back in the grass, shouting out to the skies (and to his embarrassed wife), the man wanted to be anywhere in the world but stuck there, at the boring park with his kids. That was all I needed. Was that what an extreme case of The Borings looked like? Good Lord! I didn't want get to that appalling point. I went home that evening and confessed to my husband: I'm miserably bored. At first, I didn't feel much solace admitting any of it. In fact, I felt like a disgrace: Was I saying that my kid was boring? Am I setting him up for a complex? What does this say about my virtues? You're selfish and a crappy parent; that's what. Is he supposed to share his theories on the volatility of the Dow?
My husband convinced me to slip out of my Judge Judy robe and think it through. I did, and came upon two key facts: First, the guilt was pointless. Not every aspect of parenthood is an endless thrill ride. There's a lull tucked into most everything in life. Second, the judgment -- worrying about what people think, about how they feel we're doing as parents -- it only leaves us immobilized. Powerless to do something about the thing, whatever it is, that makes us uncomfortable. Nothing changes if nothing changes. (Actually, I learned that last line from watching Intervention.)
I decided to tilt the scope on this and it slowly started to come into deeper focus. When I step back and look at this kid from a distance -- look at how much he's changed from one week to the next -- I'm charmed, enthralled and downright dazzled by the person this boy is becoming. Yes, of course, The Borings pop up some afternoons and I'm still trying to find ways to play that "u" big, but the difference now is I'm not worried about it. I don't get sucked into the ridiculous rabbit hole of blame and shame, convinced I've damaged my son or our relationship. Instead, I'm thinking, how about another round of School Bus and Race Car Make a Birthday Cake? Actually, no -- let's try another game.