October 13th, 2013, 1pm

It was 15.6°C.

You really have to be a parent to understand it. At least, I wouldn’t have really understood it until I had experienced the complete and utter fatigue that comes from having small children. When you are childless, you seek diversion for the sake of excitement. With kids, you seek diversion for the sake of boredom — a particular kind of boredom, and not because you relish it but because sometimes, it’s the best you’re going to feel.

The French word ennui always struck me as making boredom sound much more like fun. Ennui evokes a kind of drowsy lounging around, a peaceful sort of meditative state where you could gaze out a window deciding whether to take the next step towards the ideal poetic condition: melancholy. The ennui of parents is at once similar but also far different.

When we take our kids to the playground — or McDonalds or anywhere that they can play with minimal supervision — we get to sit, stare and exist for a few moments without constant demands being thrown at us. It’s not particularly stimulating, but we have no energy for real stimulation. What we want in those moments is an opportunity to reset, to do a little nothing between all the inevitable somethings that will come up within a few minutes. It’s not a normal kind of boredom, however, because it is founded almost entirely on the degree to which our kids are enjoying themselves. The more they are able to run and scream freely, the more we are able to immobilize ourselves. But you never really zone out, because there’s always the possibility you’ll need to swing into action without warning. It’s a kind of guard duty, perhaps, but even guards can be monitoring something that doesn’t move, like a statue. I’d liken it more to sleeping with one eye open.

And though you may, as a parent, often sit there wishing you could be at a matinee, eating in a restaurant that doesn’t offer high chairs or browsing a bookstore, there’s a certain exhilaration in the watching. In seeing teeter-totters, swing sets and jungle gyms act as surrogates for the carrying, swinging and climbing your kids will later do all over your body. This is a boredom in which we parents are held captive, but at the same time one in which we also cannot help but be, however momentarily, captivated.

Cassie, Lia and Craig said thanks.

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Shane Schick

Writer and editor of @CanadianCIO, @FierceDeveloper and @Allstream's expertIP.ca. Lover/fighter. http://ShaneSchick.com

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