And made us think for ourselves.

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Growing up, it was practically a sin for my two younger sisters and me to be bored. Or it was a sin, at least, to vocalize that boredom.

Before she decided to stay home with us for a few years, my mom had been a kindergarten teacher, so she always had something for us to do, or play with, or read. She curated the best collection of children’s books and taught us how to make artwork with a salad spinner. Our dress-up box was filled to the brim with things we’d been gifted and things from her own childhood collection; and we had a big backyard, with a swing set that my dad built and a garden hose that turned our plastic yellow slide into a waterpark attraction.

So on those occasions that we worked up the courage to complain of boredom or absentmindedly whined about having nothing to do, my mom’s response was always the same: “Smart girls never get bored.”

And damned if we were going to be idiots.

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I invented creative writing projects for myself, penning poems about the beach and scribbling stories about witches who played pranks on each other. I produced two-act plays that my sisters acted out for whatever captive audience I could find. We made mud pies and rode bikes and went rollerblading with our neighbors. We cut out paper dolls and paper chains and sang made-up songs. Our sofa became, at times, a covered wagon heading west, or an underwater castle, where mermaids were real and fish talked. We played “Gone with the Wind,” packing up our suitcases and running around the house screaming, “The Yankees are coming!” (It was lost on us that my grandmother was born and raised outside of Boston.) And when we were too tired to climb trees or too lazy to dream up make-believe worlds, we just curled up with books instead.

Boredom was not an option.

It turns out my mother was a pretty smart girl herself. Our collective fear of being anything but “smart girls” gave her five minutes peace, but it gave the three of us so much more: It sparked our creativity, stirred up our curiosity, and taught us how to discover the world for ourselves.

With just five words, my mother cured boredom and taught us to use our brains—to think and imagine and dream and explore. And I’ll always be grateful to her for that.