Slaying ennui with Graham Greene and bored games

“I’m bored.”

Those were the first words out of my daughter’s mouth after I picked her up from the babysitter. I can understand the feeling.

It’s -25C outside with the wind chill factor.

“Everyone else at school was hyper – I was grumpy,” she started off with a grouch. She was on the edge of throwing an all-out temper tantrum. Why? “I haven’t been able to go outside for two days.” The school kept them inside at recess, even hockey practice was cancelled – and she’s a physical child. I tried to make it better.

“Oooh,” I said excitedly, although I wasn’t really feeling that way myself. “A night inside, what’ll we do?”

My exhortations to think of something fun to do together were quickly shot down.  No baking cookies. No playing cards. No cleaning up her room (who can blame her).

The poor kid was experiencing the kind of ennui that spawns either great catastrophe or great literature.  If not writing it then at least reading it. Me? I’d go to my bookshelves and aimlessly pick one up here, another there. Open one up and see where it took me.


I’d lose myself in a Graham Greene book – read a few pages and graze on to something else. Perhaps I’d pick it up and not be able to put it down, rereading The Honorary Consul, remembering why I loved his writing. Maybe I’d finish a Mavis Gallant story, read about the Balenciaga dress.

But my daughter wasn’t up yet to the idea of waiting to see where her ennui would lead her.

So we played bored games. When you’re bored, pick up a board game. This is our “in” joke – the double entendre isn’t lost even on an 8-year-old.

That ennui? It’s how great ideas are born. Or little puns.

Here’s a kids book that deals with ennui: I’m Bored



  1. Your daughter is fortunate to have you – bored games and all.

    1. Well that’s very kind of you.

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