Tuesday, March 5, 2013

On Childhood

Without going into a lot of unnecessary details that could potentially put me into the category of "oversharer", one of the things I've been doing for my mental health lately involves delving into some of the darker parts of my childhood.  I've learned two important facts of life recently:  1)  Even if you *think* that your childhood doesn't impact who you become as an adult (ie. you think you're a normal, functional adult), it actually plays into the person you become way more than you would've ever dreamed, and 2) You have to actually think about and acknowledge the bad things that have happened in order to properly heal, move on, and make positive and lasting changes. Neither realization is all that comfortable, especially at first, but once you rip that particular band-aid off and start the process, it's pretty amazing.

Part of remembering my childhood (and let me be clear; it wasn't all awful. I have plenty of fantastic childhood memories...) involves thinking about childhood in general.  When I think of childhood, I think of innocence and wonder.  Childhood where I lived was playing outside until it got dark (and, gasp! WITHOUT adults breathing down our throats...), riding bikes to other parts of the neighborhood--again, without adult supervision.  Childhood was a huge game of hide-and-seek that spanned four or five yards, playing kickball in the court, running to greet the ice-cream man and licking dripping Bomb Pops off of our dirty hands. Even with some of the not-so-positive parts, I so fondly remember that feeling of being carefree, enjoying my friends and family, never once feeling "bored" and always choosing to be outdoors over indoors.

It is almost alarming how much childhood has changed since I was little.  I cannot even fathom letting my kids run around the neighborhood without being able to keep an eye on them. Even scarier would be thinking about them riding their bikes all over the place. But all of those large differences aside, many kids today would actually prefer to spend their time inside, watching movies, playing video games, using their iPads and iTouches.  I cannot tell you how many times, as a classroom teacher with kids outside at recess, someone would come up to me and start whining that it was too hot, that they were bored. Reflecting back on my days as an elementary student, I don't think I would've ever been bored outside; we had contests on the monkey bars to see who could skip a bar and go all the way back and forth, and who had bigger blisters on their palms.  If we weren't playing on the monkey bars, we were jumping rope, hula hooping. Just last week, I was watching some of our current students attempting to practice jumping rope in P.E. for our upcoming Jump Rope for Heart (remember that??).  I was absolutely blown away--they had NO idea how to jump rope! I watched one little guy hurl the rope over his head, jump it, and then stop. Hurl it over his head again, jump it, stop.  It was a slow-motion version of jumping rope. He had no concept of how it even worked. The bottom line is that kids today don't know how to play outside if there isn't a fancy jungle gym or play set. So vastly different from my own experiences.

I've made a conscious decision to help my own personal children (which is what I say at school when I'm talking about my kids--so as not to confuse them with the "my kids" that are the students in my school) at least be aware of some of the simple pleasures of childhood--especially when it comes to being outdoors.  I'm making an effort to work on limiting screen time (which has gotten out of control around here with all of the sickness...) and encouraging craftier, more imaginative play. Now don't get me wrong; I am not a craft master. I don't scrapbook, I don't own stock in Michaels or Hobby Lobby. It's just not my thing and I'm not wasting time feeling guilty over it; I can show my kids fun and love in other ways and they are not deprived. However, I can easily pick up some markers and some crayons and start drawing a picture of something fun we did earlier in the week. I can take my kids' endless requests for pictures and we can tell stories about them. These are easy things to do.  And...when it gets warmer, we will spend as much time outside as we can--and without all the bells and whistles. I can't wait to go out and just blow bubbles, play in the sand, take walks and pick "flowers" (aka weeds).  They're old enough now to get games like Hide and Seek, and we might even get a Slip N' Slide this summer.  I'm bringing childhood back.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Wendy! With our impending move and all the decisions leading up to it, we had one thing in mind: where could Emerson get to have the most carefree childhood with neighborbood kids like we used to? We are praying that our fairly secluded, small, country neighborhood will offer him just that. Since birth I told people that I didn't even want Emerson to go to preschool because I wanted him to be able to "run around and play with sticks" as long as possible (it actually got to be my mantra for a while). Fortunately, Emerson LOVES to be outside and when we leave our to be home, he cries because it means leaving space to wander and explore.
    The teacher in me is terribly annoyed when I have the kids run a few laps prior to recess, only to see them need to WALK or pant like dogs because they are SO out of breath! I am constantly yelling something about me being at least three times their age and I could run the entire time without dying! What is the world coming to?!?!?
    Screen time has become an issue for us too lately. Emerson has watched more TV in the last 5 months of living with my MIL than he has in his whole life! We are anxious to get back to reality where he cries when it's time to come in for dinner!
    It's always nice to find another parent fighting the same internal battle to provide the awesomeness of their own childhood for their child(ren)in a world that doesn't seem to really notice that it is missing!