30 May Be Bored
I recently spent a glorious, extended holiday weekend in three of my favorite summer locales. I started in the country, lazing in a hammock and wading in the Housatonic in CT. The 4th was spent on a downtown roof deck, grilling hot dogs and watching the fireworks over the Hudson. The following day I dug my toes in the sand at the Jersey Shore swimming and sunning, with my beloved brother and his family. The weather was perfect, the company was excellent and the food was divine. Not a moment of boredom, right? Well, maybe a few moments…
On Saturday I was left alone at my in-laws with no car. I had made a pact with myself: I would not garden or cook all weekend and no electronic devices. No work; pure rest! Delighted by the prospect, I grabbed a magazine and a novel and headed out to the hammock. Within an hour I became antsy. Should I weed? Make potato salad? Check my email? No! I wandered the yard, identifying wildflowers by the woods, and hunting bullfrogs in the brook. I ripped pages from my magazine and tried in vain to make a paper boat. Every time I was tempted to get on my iPad I recalled the blog I had written a year before. Here it is in it’s unedited form.
Reflections from a Lonely Kid & the Gift of Boredom
Oh, those magically lazy days of summer past. Pink lemonade and blue skies. Running through the sprinkler and catching fireflies. Memories like snapshots flood my mind and, like most memories, I recall only the sweetest. But somewhere between the fireworks of the 4th and the long shadows of Labor Day lay the dreaded doldrums of summer- the interminable middle-days, marked by sheer boredom.
I was the youngest of five, seven years removed from my closest sibling. I grew up next door to my cousins and a whole gang of neighborhood kids. Days were spent swimming at the pool and playing tag. After supper it was kickball on the cul de sac. As night fell, we toasted marshmallows and wished upon the North Star. But then my family got a summer house down at the shore. No more neighbor kids. My siblings either had summer jobs or had moved away. And I was left on my own.
There were no kids nearby and TV wasn’t an option. Fuzzy reception and limited channels precluded me from zoning out in front of the tube. I would slump towards my mother, shoulders rounded and arms swaying like a simian. “I’m boooored!” It wasn’t so much a statement of fact as much as a plaintive request to fix it. Fix me. Mom would draw me close and rattle off a list of ideas and activities. Each of which I would summarily reject. “Unh-uh, no way, too hard, not fun, babyish, boooooring!” She would plant a kiss on my forehead and shoo me away “Don’t know what to tell you Punkin’, but you’ll figure something out.”
And I did. In the morning I would tie a raft to the dock, marveling at the barnacles and netting blue-claw crabs to steam for supper. My father grew tomatoes and I would inspect each plant for aphids and blight, breathing in the rich smell of sunbaked earth. A perfect lunch consisted of a single red-ripe tomato, still warm from the sun, sliced thickly and sandwiched between two slices of white bread. At sunset, I wandered down to the bay with my transistor radio to watch the sun sink below the horizon. Sitting on a swing I would listen to the AM Radio and dream. My brain was always churning and I would quietly conjure my past and imagine my future.
When I wasn’t dreaming, I was reading. Anything. Everything. Chapter books, and comic books, Nancy Drew Mysteries and Aunt’s Joan’s copy of Love Story. At the beach I collected sea glass and poked jellyfish with a stick. I dug holes to China. Never quite made it to China, but each day I would begin the quest anew.
Looking back on it all I can’t imagine that I could possibly be bored. But I was- truly, madly, deeply bored. In fact, the only thing that assuaged my boredom was when I was ten and befriended a toddler on the beach blanket beside ours. I would keep him distracted while his mother gossiped with her sisters. This friendship soon burgeoned into a mother’s- helper job that lasted for the next five summers.
My boredom was a gift that instilled in me my lifelong passions- gardening, cooking, science, reading, and dreaming. It taught me the value of doing nothing. There is nothing I cherish more than a little alone time to let my mind unspool – to review today and imagine tomorrow. My lonely-kid existence afforded me an early window into my love for connecting with children and supporting their families.
I originally began this piece as a guide for parents – some boredom busters for summer. But in retrospect, I think that might be another piece altogether. Let this reflection stand alone. Glean from it what you may. If you want to know what to do when your child slumps towards you with a plaintive cry of “I’m boooored! I offer the wise words of my mother; “Don’t know what to tell you, but you’ll figure something out.”
Photo from Momtastic
Currently the Director of Exmissions at Montclare Children’s School on the Upper West Side, Mimi Dupuis began her teaching career in a parochial school on the Lower East Side, and then spent seven years teaching at a private school on the Upper East Side of New York City. With a focus on literacy, Dupuis became certified in Elementary Education at St. Peter’s University. In Jersey City, NJ, Dupuis worked with learning-disabled children in under-served communities; an experience which led her to working children with communication disorders, especially those on the autistic spectrum and teaching at Learning Spring Elementary and The Rebecca School.
Dupuis has consulted privately and collaborated with psychologists to assist children with attentional issues and anxiety disorders in attaining success in the classroom. After a decade of special needs work, Dupuis returned for her Masters in Early Childhood at Hunter College.