28 Jul Reflections From a Lonely Kid & The Gift of Boredom
Reflections from a Lonely Kid & the Gift of Boredom, by Mimi Dupuis, Director of Exmissions
Oh, those magically lazy days of summers past. Tart pink lemonade and blue skies. Running through sprinklers and catching fireflies. Snapshot memories flood my mind and, in the mysterious way memory works, I recall only the sweetest.
Somewhere between the fireworks of the 4th and the long shadow of Labor Day, invariably lay the dreaded doldrums of summer. The interminable middle-days, marked by sheer boredom.
The youngest of five, I was seven years removed from my closest sibling. Fortunately, I grew up next door to my cousins and a whole gang of neighborhood kids. On sunny days we went swimming at the local pool and played tag. After supper it was twilight kickball on the cul-de-sac. As night fell, we toasted marshmallows and wished upon the North Star. Those days were full and vivid. Then my family acquired a summer house down at the Jersey Shore. No more neighbor kids and cousins. My siblings either had summer jobs or had moved away. And there I was, on my own.
No other kids nearby. 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 a plaintive request that she 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 be steamed 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 AM Radio and dream. My mind would quietly whirr as I reviewed my past and imagined 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 (not a great idea I later learned—even dead jellyfish can sting). I dug holes to China. Never made it to China, but each day I would begin the quest anew.
All of those wonderful activities aside, although I can’t imagine how, I was truly, madly, deeply bored. In fact, the only thing that ultimately assuaged my dire sense of boredom was when, at the age of ten, I befriended a toddler on the beach blanket beside ours. I would distract him and keep him busy while his mother gossiped with her sisters. This friendship soon burgeoned into a mothers-helper job that lasted for the next five summers.
Looking back, 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 writing 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 Punkin’, but you’ll figure something out.”
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.