Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Summertime Boredom Blues, in E Flat Minor

Summertime sure has changed since dinosaurs ruled the earth I was a kid.

In the summer, I would leave the house right after breakfast and I wouldn't return until Mom called us to lunch. (Each neighborhood mom had a distinctive lunchtime call. Nobody ever got confused until the people with the parrot moved in across the street. Stupid parrot quickly learned to mimic every mom on the block, and we kids were constantly running into the house asking "What do you want?" and the answer would be "Why are you here? I didn't call you!") No normal kid stayed in the house in the summertime. We stayed outside as long as we could see.

All the moms knew that if any of us chose to behave poorly, anywhere in the neighborhood, the MomPolice would instantly put a stop to it and notify the wrong-doer's mother. Every mom was everybody's mom. The village kept us civilized.

After lunch, at which every kid on the block was served the same thing - "take it or leave it" - we were all off again, riding our bikes all over the neighborhood, climbing trees, playing kickball in Becky's back yard - the biggest back yard on the block. We played there even when Becky wasn't home; all back yards were open source back then.

We came back home again only when it started to get dark; we ate a late supper, took a much-needed bath, watched The Beverly Hillbillies, and went to bed. All the summer tomorrows promised to be just as exciting as the first day! The only difference was the half-hour sitcom. Or an hour, on Bonanza night.

Some summer days we spent every waking hour at the public pool, coming home for lunch only because the pool closed for an hour. On those days, we were ravenous at lunchtime. We were hungry before lunchtime, too, but back then, people ate at designated times, not constantly.

Were we fat? Nope, although there was always one fat kid, usually nicknamed Porky or Chubs or Heifer or some such politically scandalous thing nowadays. Did the kid care? Nope; he/she knew he/she was fat. Were we afraid of strangers? Nope. We were warned about taking rides or candy from strangers, but a stranger would have to be insane to try and kidnap one of us; the screaming and tattling would have begun before his foot hit the accelerator. Remember when Colin grabbed the kid in Kindergarten Cop? Remember what happened to the child molester in the novel "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn?" Yeah, I'm all for it. Get him, ladies! Yell, kids! Painful death is far too good for people who are mean to children.

Nowadays, kids are rarely allowed to leave the confines of the house, let alone their own yard. Kids on bikes are watched all the way up the block and all the way back. Go AROUND the block? Heaven forbid. These rules make sense for tiny children, but for 5th graders? Oh please.

Kids in summer, nowadays, watch a lot of television and play a lot of video games and do a lot of computer surfing. The trees are too small to climb even if each one didn't have a little fence around it. Other people's back yards are private property.

Your kid wants to play ball? He's put in a structured program run by adults. Your kid wants to play outside? He'll get DIRTY, and wouldn't you rather watch a DVD, and here, have some cake. Kid wants to go someplace? You drive him. And he watches tv in the minivan instead of looking out the window.

Nowadays, if kids are playing in a barn and one of them yells, "Hey, kids, let's do a SHOW!" the other kids will leave the barn to watch TV. They know of nothing else.

I know there are real dangers out there, dangers that were always there but which seem magnified these days. Our kids need to be taught to protect themselves and each other. But parents, let your kids fly free and occasionally out of sight on their bikes, and let them navigate their own neighborhoods, and let them get filthy and hungry and turn off the damn television set.

Give your kids an empty bottle and tell them to fill it with lightning bugs. Send the kids out in the yard to find four-leaf-clovers. Have them hang clean wet towels on the clothesline. Let them rollerskate and the devil take the bruises. A kid without playtime bruises and cuts and scabs and dirt ingrained in the fingernails is a kid who doesn't know how to play.

I know! Give them some CHORES to do! Oh, the humanity!

Send them to Steve Spangler's website to sign up for the experiment of the week.

Help them do that experiment. Make it a family affair. There's even a link for special summer activities for kids over there right now.

Whatever your kids do this summer, try to have them do it outdoors whenever possible. Item: rain will not harm your children. If you have white carpeting and children, you deserve to take the inevitable fall.

Just a few thoughts from an empty nest mommy who misses her bicycling days almost as much as she misses her kids. I did not have white carpeting, but muddy footprints show up on green pretty darn clearly. Who cares?

Cross-posted, in part, on MommyBloggers. The REAL MommyBloggers.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:46 AM | |


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