When I was eleven and my sister was thirteen, my parents decided that we were old enough to stay at home weekdays during the summer. Our house was a forty-five minute walk from the nearest bus stop; being that we were lazy, there was little chance of us walking to catch said bus and ending up at the mall with the other miscreants. Also, there weren’t any other kids on our street (none that we liked, anyway), so our parents were content to leave us to our devices every morning as they went to work.
So, what did two young kids with an infinite amount of free time on their hands do? What wacky schemes did we think up? What did we do with an empty house and no parental supervision? The answer: absolutely nothing. We didn’t do a single thing. Our days would pass agonizingly slowly, peppered with the occasional fridge raid to break the monotony. There was no cable TV; we had six channels, two of them were fuzzy, and one was Cantonese. I would wake up at 11 am and watch “The Price is Right”; I didn’t even like that show, but it was better than watching men’s golf, which was on almost daily. This was before cell phones, before Instagram, and before the internet. There wasn’t much for two homebound kids to do. Sure, we could play outside or ride our bikes, but that was boring. Besides, where could we ride our bikes to? Down the street and back up again? Repeatedly?
Each day stretched for an eternity; we lazed around on the couch and the floor, bored out of our minds. Could we have gone outside and played in the fresh air? Absolutely. Did we ever do that? Not really. My sister was never interested in playing with me, and it gets lonely playing by yourself, so we ended up staying inside. I do recall that this was slightly before caller ID, so we delighted in making prank phone calls. These calls involved dialling the number of someone we knew, waiting for them to pick up the phone, and then staying silent as they said “hello”. We were not creative pranksters, obviously.
The one benefit of this unrelenting boredom was that summer lasted forever. Two months would drift slowly by, and the idea of September was a far and distant dream. Looking back, I can see those days so clearly; the warm sunshine, the smell of flowers in the morning, the wind rustling in the pine trees – how achingly pretty. If only I had appreciated my free time when I had it! Oh, to be bored again! I had no idea that boredom was a luxury.
Now, I’m lucky if I can get a spare second to enjoy the weather. Most of the time I’m worried about sunscreen, naptimes, and hats (because you know how much toddlers enjoy wearing hats). What I wouldn’t give to be bored! To have nothing to do, nothing to clean, no noses to wipe… wouldn’t that be lovely? To relax on the soft grass in the sun, reading a book, instead of breaking up another scream-fight because someone stole the other’s sunglasses. (Hint: they have identical sunglasses).
I’m trying not to wish my life away, though. Most days are fun because they’re new for my kids, and we’re making summer memories together. Memories of running through the sprinkler, chasing the ice-cream truck, and playing outside with the dog. Hopefully, my kids will look back on these long, long, long summer days as fondly as I will! I won’t leave them to their own devices for a while, and when I do, I’ll make sure to tell them to enjoy being bored. I can already predict how their eyes will roll when I tell them “consider yourselves lucky! I wish I was bored!”