The Dying Art Of... Boredom, Bad TV And Bickering

14/08/2014 16:47 | Updated 22 May 2015
The dying art of...

We usually only notice the big changes between our own childhoods and those of our children, but I have been increasingly struck by the small things that make my sons' formative years so very different from my own. Of course the advent of Facebook and email, iPods and Kindles means that growing up in the 21st century is different, but there are more subtle changes these leaps forward in technology have made.

For example when was the last time you took your children round the supermarket to do the family shop? In my house the answer to that would be not since we discovered online shopping.

Thanks to the wonder of a little orange Sainsburys van that turns up every week, I no longer have to bribe my children to stay in the trolley and keep quiet with copious amounts of biscuits untimely ripped from their wrapping as we make our fraught way round.

The removal of a chore like this from my boys childhood is nothing short of miraculous, but I do sometimes wonder if plain old boredom is swiftly becoming a thing of the past. I will never quite shake the memory of the endless tedium of sitting fidgeting while my parents chatted to their friends, or went out for a meal or conducted their daily business. I could never understand quite what it was that took so long.

In contrast, I live in such fear of that perennial childhood whine 'I'm bored', that my children are forever entertained by electronic gadgets. If I want to have an uninterrupted chat with my girlfrends, I pop my iPhone into their hands and bar the rows over whose turn it is to have a go peace reigns supreme.

I know I am not alone as while I have yet to resort to it myself I have often spied other parents sharing a nice grown up restaurant meal while their children are engrossed in their DS.

But this wall-to-wall entertainment is not an unalloyed blessing. With 24-hour Cartoon Network and Playhouse Disney, I suspect that the wonder has gone out of childrens' TV. Instead of those scant few hours of Playschool and Rhubarb and Custard, Grange Hill and Stig of The Dump that I so treasured as a child, now children have endless American teen dramas and cartoons pumped into the living room. I hardly think they will be able to single out a favourite from the hours of TV on offer every day.

Then there is the dreaded health and safety. While I would never condone travelling without a seat belt, I can't help but savour my own fond memories of laying out flat on the back seat of my parents Volvo, wrapped in a duvet to snooze away our road trips to France to see my auntie.

I would have a coronary at the thought of my children escaping the high tech harnesses that keep them out of harm's way whenever we take to the road. Instead once again I resort to screen time to keep them amused, thereby killing off the ancient art of I-Spy at the touch of a remote control button.

That said I am not sure I mourn the fractious home made entertainment my sister and I indulged in the back of the car, which involved far more bickering than imaginative play.

I also can't say that my children are missing out by avoiding the explosive rows that punctuated old style pre-GPS family days out. My mum's atrocious map reading, twinned with my father's impatient driving meant that no trip could go unmarked without a screaming row about whose fault it was when we got lost. Now we can all gang up on the sat nav.

Another of the old ways best relegated to the past is the thank you note. Oh the pain of tortuously writing out each 'heart-felt' epistle is etched onto my soul. I am sure my mother shared my pain as she attempted to bribe, cajole and finally bully me into writing the blasted things. Now my boys simply whip up a simple electronic round robin and the job is completed in seconds with no tears shed.

What other differences are there between yours and your kids' childhoods?

Do you envy their child-centric times?

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