Wednesday, May 27, 2009

'Til the Street Lights Come On

That was my official "curfew" as a kid. It was a fail safe universal control mechanism for many urban mothers world round. As the summer break gets into full swing I, like many parents, am scrambling to organize camps, extend school, find getaways, and plan ways to keep the little ones "engaged". This is also a time that my contemporaries think back nostalgically to their own childhood. Apparently, a simpler one. Occupied more with double dutch ropes fashioned from clothes lines and skelly bottle tops made with wax than computers and handhelds (unless you were lucky enough to have pong. We were natural "frugalists" - We recycled : A stick ...poof...became a sword, a phone cord...poof...instant jump rope. All we had was each other, and good sense of mischief (and a lot of un-rung doorbells). We could go hours without even eating or drinking so as not to miss the next adventure . Talk about reducing our footprint and waste!

cue Can it be that it was all so simple then?. (the Wu Tang version please)

Ask yourselves this summer: Do kids really need to watch a full length film in the backseat of a car!? How will they ever learn how many chapters of any given Beverly Cleary book or MAD magazine they can get through without puking? This sort of thing has to be learned on the job.

We only have ourselves to blame. All of this talk reminded me of how seldom we require our kids "engage" themselves. Have we provided them with too many "instruments of play?" Too many things to do and have? Are we robbing them of that benign neglect with which our parents showered us? We modern parents pride ourselves on providing our kids with the finest vestiges of our "better youth" slinky toys, gyroscopes, and viewmaster reels. Maybe instead we should just call off some "play dates" at "play spaces" and throw the tykes out on the stoop armed only with their imaginations (oh - and 35 cents for an egg cream or bomb pop)

happy summer!

photo (c) Martha Cooper