Adorable Nexus of Chaos

Athena’s home from school today due to parent-teacher conferences, which is putting big puncturing holes in my work day. Indeed, she just now walked into the room and announced “I’m bored,” with the subtext there being and if you do not amuse me I will make your life an unremitting hell from now until I am twenty five. Which is a heck of a subtext, if you ask me. So, uh, I’ll be keeping busy with that today, I guess.

40 Comments on “Adorable Nexus of Chaos”

  1. At least she’s old enough to warn you that she’s bored instead of moving directly to mayhem.

    I was home with a sick toddler on Monday. I thought he was napping. Actually, the (in retrospect, ominous) silence was due to the fact that he was busy emptying a container of vaseline, smearing about half across his face like a mudmask, and depositing the remainder in little blobs across his bed and rug. I was alerted to the mess by the sound of water as he attempted to wash his hands. By that time, every door knob between his bedroom and the bathroom, plus the faucet, were liberally coated. I almost broke my neck when I slipped on the vaseline as I came to investigate.

    Later that day, he inserted a rubber ball into the exhaust pipe of my car. It was just small enough that with some careful prodding, it would roll back into the muffler.

    Yay toddlers!

  2. I read the first line as:

    “Athena’s home from school today due to parent-teacher differences.”

    That would be a much more intriguing blog entry.

    Sophia’s last sick day was a case of pure malingering. SO much so in fact that she has to meet these three simple criteria next time she wants to stay home sick from school:

    1) Bleeding

    2) Fevering over 100F

    3) Vomiting

    4) Dying

    I am appalled at myself for not catching the malingering as I was a CHAMP back in the day!

  3. James said:

    “The response to ‘I’m bored’ should always be the assignment of onerous household chores!”

    That’s what my parents did, and I must say I very quickly learned to keep myself entertained.

  4. Ummm… I have a newsflash for you, John.

    She’s entering the Teen Twilight Zone. Your life will have periods of unremitting hell from time to time anyway. Enjoy the ride!

  5. You know what’s a really great way to assuage boredom?

    Visiting museums dedicated to the fantasy world-building of a popular alternative history story.


  6. John,

    While I am sure you have received this advice from zillions of well meaning relatives, friends, and blogees, it is still true. Athena will grow up so fast that you will wonder where the time went.

    Hold on tightly as well to that period of her life during which her announcement that she is bored means that she wants to do something with her daddy – that will fade too as she becomes a teen and you become an embarrassing and unavoidable appendage rather than the Fount of All Wisdom.

    Even if it is raining and cold go for a hike or something outside. Do something, go somewhere, have an experience that you can talk about over a cup of hot chocolate. You are an educated man and I am sure know that one of the most accurate predictors of a young woman making good relationship choices is her relationship with her father – there is no doubt from what you have posted here that you and Athena are close – take shameless advantage of that closeness at times like this and revel in the wonder and innocence that your little girl brings to the most mundane things in life. Make a memory, take pictures, and hug her a thousand times.

    My daughters are 32 and 27 and my granddaughters are 4 and 4 months and I follow this advice myself. At Thanksgiving I will be able to put my arms around all four of them at once and I will be as blessed a man as there exists.

  7. The scary thing about the “until I am twenty five” subtext — and I can testify because I have a 9-year-old daughter — is how totally *plausible* it is. It takes no imagination whatsoever to see Athena (or my J.) carrying out this subtextual threat/promise/cause-effect relationship.

  8. I do the assignment of chores thing to, with my sons. In fact, they now jump if I ask them “Did you just say you were bored?”

    But doing stuff together with them, even if it just walking the dog, is great.

  9. Guys! That’s awful! “I’m bored” isn’t a request for busy work, it is a request to, ya know, do something with your child. Sounds like Mr. Scalzi understands teenspeak at least.

  10. “I’m bored” at our house became “Go clean your room” time — or wash dishes, or mow the lawn — there was an infinity of ugly chores that followed the kid so idiotic as to claim boredom.

    You are such a soft touch!

  11. My son’s grade school has a day care facility on-campus where he goes before and after school. On teacher in-service days, he goes there all day. This allows his parents to work, so we can pay for his daycare. Today he’s going to Planet Kid for a field trip with the daycare place.

    In your case, I’d take OldJarheads advice and go do something fun with Athena. My .2 cents.

  12. You should take her to this really fun museum that’s right near the Greater Cincinnati/NKY airport. You’ll both have a blast! ;)

  13. Athena’s an only child – she has to go to her parents for intellectual stimulation. I was the fifth of five, and the next oldest was eight years my senior. By the time I was five, my sister didn’t want much to do with me, so I fell into the same patterns as an only child.

    As such, may I recommend against the chores model? It’ll backfire on you when she begins to retort “I said was bored, not stupid…”

  14. The quality of the Boredom Removal Project should, in part, depend on the results of your very own parent-teacher conference regarding the small personage in question.

    Dr. Phil

  15. You could go with the old Huck Finn routine: “Well, I’m not going to let you paint this fence. No, ma’am. I’m having too much fun with it. You’d have to trade me something really good to get in on this.”

    Or (since paint is rather… permanent) a useful variant:

    “I’m not letting you chart these graphs or connect these dots on Daddy’s stock portfolio.”

    Or (since finances really shouldn’t be subjected to immediate tests of chaos theory)

    “If you’re bored, why don’t YOU tell ME a story.” Nice for a change, eh?

  16. Re: “if you do not amuse me I will make your life an unremitting hell from now until I am twenty five”

    Um, that’s going to happen anyway (my daughters are 14 and 7.5). Giving up and having fun is a great approach. Might as well make the best of it.

    – yeff

  17. Wow, parents these days! I could not ever announce to my parents I was bored, for then I would find myself cleaning the bathrooms or mowing the lawn. My parents never called me an “adorable nexus of chaos”, either.

    …can I move in?? I clean bathrooms!

  18. OK, I don’t have any kids, and my own school days are ancient history, so this is probably a dumb question, but:

    If it’s Parent-Teacher Conference Day, why aren’t you conferencing with Athena’s teachers?

  19. I can’t wait to see at what age she starts saying “I’m bored… and stop telling the rest of the world my business!”

  20. My answer to the “I’m bored” cry is either “that’s because you’re boring” or “boredom is the sign of a little mind.”

    It does some times work and they do something creative. Other times they ignore me.

  21. It’s much easier with multiple kids.

    Evan: “Daddy, I’m bored.”

    Me: “That’s funny. Your sister just said you were a big poopy-head”.

    Evan: “WHAT!!!!! ABBBBBBYYYYY!” [runs to quarrel with sister]

  22. Damn! Old Jarhead, you could make that into a Hallmark commercial.

    I’m the youngest of 8, the next about 5 years older. I was glad to be out from under the noise, bossing, and chaos of my older sibs. I used to sit in the tree and read (or in the winter, sit by the little attic window and read) and be glad for the peace and quiet.

  23. BTW, that look she’s giving the camera suggests that you might want to sleep with one eye open tonight. And every night until she’s twenty-five. ;-)

  24. You want child boredom?

    This week: Two days off for the “teacher’s convention” that most teachers do not attend.

    Next week: A whole week (five days) of half-days for parent-teacher conference time.

    The week after: Thanksgiving and the day after.

    Now the Thanksgiving period is OK, as there will be relations to help in boredom prevention. But the rest…boredom deluxe plus a real cut in my work time. Somehow the threat of housework no longer works, BTW!

    Never mind the “Bratz” DVD. I picked up the latest Pixar offering for today. Two discs worth of stuff to get through and I can enjoy it as well.

  25. Children who want to make trouble, and are too old to just scream for no reason, but too young to sleep around with hooligans, are hereby advised that matches properly used rarely fail to generate the sought-for adult attention.