Childhood is vanishing, speeding by in light years. The days of days filled with play and boredom and hours spent meandering between the green of yards and the hot black asphalt of the street are all but a distant memory now. In just a glimpse we are watching childhood disappear as we knew it and its’ extinction should paralyze us with fear, but we sit silently, some of us unaware. To consider the consequences seems one more hindrance in the busy daily schedule, it’s easier to carry on your comfortable status quo, perhaps read a parenting book.
If anyone knows this, it is me. Our world feels unsafe and is unsafe, our days feel so busy and are so busy, our children feel so immersed in technology and sports and they are immersed in technology and sports. Living in a small town has its advantages; one on the outside it may seem a bit of a hindrance but really it is quite freeing. Activities are limited to basic sports, music lessons, dance and ballet, art and for some, Odyssey of the Mind. I’m sure I’m leaving a few out but choices that I often lament like lacrosse, tennis, golf, field hockey and flag football leave me feeling conflicted. Am I doing my children a disservice by not broadening their horizons? It feels like it as my big city friends are nurturing seemingly supreme beings in those geographically accessible arenas, not to mention the private schools.
Perhaps I am too confident and some day my children may very well say to me as I said to my own parents, “you should have made me…..”. That’s okay as I know I can and could do better, offer more enrichment, check off summer reading and math workbooks. I don’t pretend that my children are being prepped for success. It’s just that I want more than success and perfected athletic skills and summers filled with camp and tutoring. I want childhood and I’m willing to fight against the nagging voice in my mind that challenges the decision to live in a quiet town, go to schools overwhelmed with poverty, and offer our children hours and hours of freedom to roam and explore, play and inspect, wallow and complain.
I’m committed to saving childhood, if only for my own small tribe. I just can’t say good bye; I know too much and the research is drilled in my head. Play, play, play- that word repeats itself to me whenever I struggle with the lack of commitments for my children. I sit silent and nervous when the far away friends reel off the lessons and activities that plague their weeks of the school year. I begin to waver as I consciously compare the busy peers to my largely unscheduled children. I try to encourage them to choose a sport and piano or art, either one but that’s enough for us. I think the real question is, what is enough for our children?
Mine say enough, too much. They claim they want time at home, time with no obligation or deadline and between church and school, there is little free time I have found. I am committed to saving it for them. I will offer the best existence for preserving the childhood that I know is but a quick flash in the whole of our lives. I hope that the hours they’ve wandered, playing games amongst the trees and darkening streets, will offer a sturdy foundation and safe place for them when they become quite grown up and have the responsibilities that travel with adulthood.
My own days are now filled with raising four children and the freedom of childhood has been gone quite a while now. If I close my eyes though, I can remember the sound of my roller skates on the hot street, the icy spray of the water hose filling up a baby pool, the smell of freshly cut grass as we rolled down the hill of our neighborhood park. I can still remember and that memory is a gift that silences my complaints and fuels my decision to save childhood.