Did you ever get tired of the phrase "When I was a kid..." growing up? I know I did. The stories about how great and difficult life was back in the good old days got less and less believable as I got closer to my teenage years. As an adult, however, I have a few observances I'd like to make, and all of them about President's Day.
Yesterday was President's Day, and I had some errands to run so I went downtown and drove around to different places, passing a few parks along the way. After a few minutes I realized how sad the sidewalks and parks looked. They were empty. All of them.
Now, where I grew up the sidewalks and parks weren't exactly full to overflowing on President's Day, but we very seldom (if ever) had a President's Day like the one I experienced yesterday. We usually had a little bit of snow (not always enough to do much in, but we tried) and it was always cold. Still, it was a day off school and most definitely not a day to stay cooped up inside unless we had absolutely no other choice. We would go out and try to sled in the snow no matter how little there was. We would build snow/mud forts and have snow/mud ball fights. We would go inside for warm cocoa and then head back outside for more time NOT cooped up.
If we had experienced a President's Day like yesterday here in sunny Georgia, we would have been riding our bikes and climbing trees. Sitting in the sun out in the middle of a grassy field and reading a book. Collecting bugs and putting them in glass jars until we suddenly realized that we put a bug in there that was eating all the other bugs and started frantically letting them out again. We would have built tree forts out of ferns, leaves, and dead wood rather than snow/mud forts (which are far less fun and usually got our coats so wet and muddy we were more miserable than it was worth.) We would have gone to the park and played on the swings, slides, and monkey bars. Yesterday, it was 60 and sunny. That is not a day to play indoors.
All of that being said, I am reminded of the first time I watched television outside of the hospital in Joliet. We were flipping through channels and found some cartoons. After a bit, a commercial came on. I was in SHOCK!!!! They were reminding kids to get out and play for at least 30 minutes every day. Why would kids have to be reminded to play outside every day. Didn't they automatically want to do that? Didn't their parents go crazy keeping them inside when there was no other choice, like during school, on sick days, or when the weather was just too bad to be played in? My parents had to explain to me that kids played computer games, video games, online games, texted on their cell phones, and stared at the tv for hours on end. They didn't know how to interact with each other in any sort of one on one basis and they didn't bother trying to go out and get "enough exercise".
It's a sad state of affairs when, afforded the opportunity, kids don't get up and run around outside. They don't make friends with the new kid that moved in around the corner (learning the value of giving everyone a chance to be their friend.) They don't build forts in the trees or woods (learning how to work with their hands and appreciate what tools and materials nature provides.) They don't ride a bike down a dirt hill as fast as they can thus proving they are the bravest of the bunch (and learning the value of knee pads and a helmet.) They don't go outside, lay in the sun, and read a good book (learning to enjoy the quiet moments when they come.)
When I was a kid....life was much more fun and interesting. Too bad I don't have the power to turn off all the electronic devices to give kids today a chance to realize it still could be.
The essence of childhood, of course, is play, which my friends and I did endlessly on streets that we reluctantly shared with traffic. ~ Bill Cosby
The highlight of my childhood was making my brother laugh so hard that food came out his nose. ~ Garrison Keillor