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  • Reverend James Squire

Where Did You Go? Out! What Did You Do? Nothing? Jim Squire September 2023

The title of this blog is the title of a book by Robert Paul Smith published in 1957. It is a reflection on his childhood in the 20(s) and a reflection on the over scheduled over supervised lives of kids in the 50(s). He would be shocked to see how kids are scheduled today with little free time away from parents as well. The basic point of an article, “What Adults Forget About Friendship,” in The Atlantic on August 28, 2023 by Rhaina Cohen is that adults have forgotten that lasting memories are forged in young people when they are just hanging out with no task to do.

(Full disclosure) I am the worst person to be writing this blog based on my life’s experience as I have had to learn how to do chit chat and non-task-oriented conversation. This was forged because I grew up with parents who had a hands-off attitude on accomplishments. I don’t ever remember them asking about homework or how my brother and I were doing in school. Those things were not important to them because they really weren’t important in how they were raised and in the general aura of a working-class community. What you did in school was up to us.

During our younger years in Lower and Middle School, we worked hard, got great grades, and moved through life. There was plenty of time to just hang out with neighborhood friends and classmates. But when we entered high school, things changed. It was not because of parents. Their attitude remained the same. We became driven, but we never competed against one another. He was two years older so he helped me with science and math where he was a whiz.

There is one memory that still stays with me. When my mother learned that I was Valedictorian of my class, she said to my brother that if he worked harder, he could have been one too. I was furious as the only thing my brother did on top of his hard work was to occasionally help me out with math and science, and he did it willingly. When I entered his room, he would drop everything to provide help. There were no expectations from parents. I think that was true of my peers as well. Looking back on it, the school didn’t have high expectations either except certain teachers who pushed both my brother and me hard raising the bar. He became a Harvard Fellow and a research physicist at the Pentagon. After his death there were more generals and admirals than you could count who stopped by his home to tell his wife and child all that he did to help the United States. And I did OK too!

There was what I call “being” time as opposed to “doing” time when he and I were younger which I believe enabled us to become the masters of our own destiny. But still today I have difficulty just hanging out, but ironically that is just what you need to develop friendships. Everyone needs “being time,” and it is getting less and less for our children. Memories of my younger years are still very important to me for according to both Smith and Cohen “being time” is where lasting memories are forged.

I didn’t believe that when I was growing up, but after being in a high-powered school for thirty- eight years as Chaplain, I have adopted the attitude that “You should not watch what I do, watch what I say” regarding this issue. I am a paradox, a self -contradiction! I developed this attitude because I worked closely with parents and kids. A case in point would be the parent who was in my office in tears because she wasn’t sure her child would get into Princeton. The child was entering first grade.

I have often said that if students work hard and manage their time well at EA, they could be successful at any college or university. I saw firsthand how important, valuable and necessary that their “being time” was for students. Sometimes parents don’t respond to “Where did you go? Out? What did you do nothing? Nothing.” That time is like food for a hungry person, and for the over scheduled and over supervised that time could be like food for a starving person.

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