Are they Brats or Simply Bored Children?

I just spent 90 minutes in a 12 x 15 room with a bored two-year old.

It’s not enough that the room didn’t have toys and books, it also didn’t have padded walls, which I would have used even if the Toddler did not.

Madonna and Toddler, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

What it did have was a flat screen, and apparently the idea was this:

While one family member disappears to the back room for an unspecified time with a dental professional, the rest of us read tattered fishing magazines or watch educational fare on the screen.

I’m sure you can guess how well the fishing magazines went over with both of us, but does it surprise you to learn that the Toddler was uninterested in obscure miniature monkeys of Borneo?

Well the receptionist was flabbergasted, having changed the movie several times for another small person, a bored four-year-old who, after 80 minutes, was probably wondering if she was an orphan.

“Now just sit here and watch the movie until your mother comes out,” the woman instructed the child.

Sumptuously attired in a red princess dress with velvet sleeves and tulle skirt, the four-year-old twirled around the room, skipped into the wall, then pirouetted in front of me and demanded,

“Doesn’t this look like a wedding dress?” which led me to believe that she wasn’t interested in the miniature monkeys of Borneo either.

Little One, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

But for a glorious 15 minutes, she and the Toddler clambered over chairs, peered out the window, and stuffed their arms through the mailbox slot, which I agree with them was the most interesting element of the room.

In other words, they behaved like normal children in a 12 x 15 room with nothing in it but fishing magazines and a flat screen, and they didn’t sit still, and they weren’t quiet, and they didn’t just watch the movie and stop bothering people the way adults, trained to glue their eyes to the screen, expect them to.

The amazing thing about this particular office is that a healthy percentage of its clientele is under the age of 10, and while great pains are taken that the movie collection is superlative, there was not a single block, a single puzzle, a single book, a single toy of any kind to occupy a mind that races as fast as the feet that rush it around from place to place.

And so the kids climb the chairs, shove their hands through the mail slot, and act like brats, which they’re not, in this case – not only because one of them is part of my tribe – but because they’re really not interested in watching monkeys pick through one another’s hair.

This is normal, you know  — kids being active and noisy and unwilling to sit still for long periods of time, but we have forgotten this. A generation ago, parents and teachers sighed, “Kids will be kids,” and sent the beasties outside with strict instructions to run until they collapsed.

Youth, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

Today, however, the default is to rely upon a screen, video drugging the culprits into submission while reassuring ourselves that we are providing rich, edifying, scholastic content. It is more important to us that our child read by three than that he can climb a tree, or that she know how to run a software program as opposed to actually run.

Or that he or she just sit still and be quiet and color within the lines. This, apparently, is how the next generation of scientists will come about.

There’s a reason God gave us kids – to keep us from being old, boring, static, dull, inactive, unengaged humans who don’t know how to skip anymore.

Awakening, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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6 Responses to Are they Brats or Simply Bored Children?

  1. What a phenomenal post! You captured the essence of how our society treats children today–little inconveniences that must be put with in order to propagate the human race. Children are indeed a blessings. I confess that I must reminded of that from time to time. Especially when my 4 are being noisy, messy and totally disrupting my plans. Thanks for the great reminder Carolyn.

  2. Thank you, Alecia. I agree with you that our society is indeed impatient with the younger members of it, and we demand behavior that is difficult for even adults to offer.

    By their nature, kids are loud, messy, demanding, and impacting — and as parents and adults, we work to teach them how to behave so that others don’t run screaming from the room. But we can relax as well. Not everything, all the time, has to be in a state of order — as I’m sure you know.

    I wish you and your family a divine weekend, and may you all bask in the warmth of just liking being around one another.

  3. Jana says:

    “Video drugging the culprits into submission” – and if that doesn’t work, prescribe Ritalin. I’m guessing people are afraid to allow their children to go outside, and afraid they will be out of the computer and information loop and afraid to let them play with toys in an office because they will have germs on them. An unsupervised child in a medical office is not a good situation – aren’t there babysitters available for those poor Moms and receptionists??

  4. Jana: it amazes me the number of children who, normal a generation ago, are now candidates for drug therapy.

  5. Anya says:

    Preach it Carolyn! I continue to be humbled when, time and time again, my children show me that they are just bored while I am ready to sign them off as “bratty” or “difficult”. All it takes is a new toy, game, or merely an engaging conversation, to transform the little climbing, quarrelsome monsters into fascinating (and fascinated) people.

    Love the idea of running till you collapse 🙂 That’s what we often tell our kids – go and run around outside. If they come home with still some charge left, we send them out again, or wrestle with them on the couch until they run out of air. Only problem is, with 104 degrees outside, they come in all too quickly….

  6. Anya — not so many years ago, I moved around in public with four ducklings in tow. Like you, I made sure they weren’t horrendous impacts on the society around them, but four children, collectively breathing, make noise enough. Sometimes the people around us just have to deal with us, because the parents are so tired they’re just working on their own breathing, themselves!

    Yes, children are fascinating people, and monsters other times, and a combination plate at others. Kind of like adults, only we’ve learned to temper our tempers and keep things in!

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