Summertime, and the living is.........easy? Perhaps for those of us who are not now dealing with three little ones to entertain day in and day out. The very day after school let out, my children approached me at 10:00 a.m. to inform me they were bored. It was a sunny day, and we happen to have a backyard that is the envy of half the children in the neighborhood, complete with a swing set, tree house, trampoline, and an apple tree that just begs to be climbed. Yet, there stood my children, two hours after breakfast, staring up at me expectantly. Did they expect me to suddenly turn into one of The Wiggles? I'm not sure. I continued to wipe the kitchen counter. They continued to stare. It was a showdown, and I was clearly losing. "Why don't you go play in the backyard?", I suggested the obvious solution to their boredom dilemma. "We already did that.", they stated matter-of-factly. They had played in the backyard that morning for about 20 minutes. I used to spend the entire day outside in the summertime when I was a little girl. Even in the sweltering heat of a Virginia summer, I would run, play, swim, ride bikes and climb trees until my little round Tweety Bird face was redder than a beet and I had earned three or four new scrapes and acquired at least an inch of dirt under my nails. I also spent plenty of time with my family in the summer. We went on walks, out to ice cream, or to Bullets, or favorite drive-in burger joint. On the weekends, we usually made an excursion to Virginia Beach, Washington D.C., or one of the many other historical sights nearby. We also bought season passes to King's Dominion, a nearby amusement park, and went there often. I loved the time spent with my family, but I did not expect them to entertain me every day of the week.
But my children are part of the entitlement generation, and the instant gratification generation. With the advances in technology, children can access endless supplies of instant entertainment with the click of a mouse or remote. This is exactly the kind of thing we generally try to avoid in our house. This attempt to limit technology is more successful some days than others. Yesterday, it was rainy and about 60 degrees out. Not exactly ideal summer break weather. Plus, Monster had thrown up twice in the morning and was still looking rather peaked. So, I gave into the relentless requests of my two older children to "pleeeease watch a moooooviieeee". I gave into this request not once, but twice. Hyrum spent the rest of the afternoon playing PBS Kids on the computer. Hey, at least the games are educational, right? I spent most of the afternoon in the rocking chair with a cranky Monster. By the end of the day, I felt like a complete and utter failure as a parent. I had let technology parent my children for the day. I could think of a million excuses in my mind...."it was a crummy day outside", or "Monster was sick", or "it's only because it's their first week of summer break. I won't let this happen again." But, the truth is, I used the tv and computer as a babysitter. I could have read to my kids. I could have brought out the board games. We've spent many a rainy afternoon in the Stanger house with a stack of library books or an open game board. But the truth is, I was tired yesterday. Not so much in the physical, I need to rest type of way; more in the this is only the beginning of what is shaping up to be a very long summer full of bored children staring at me and wondering what to do with themselves type of way. So, I gave in to the exhaustion, and really didn't do much of anything. I am considering this the deep breath before the plunge. Next week will be Hyrum's first week of t-ball, Morgan's first week of horseback riding lessons, and the first week of art class for both of them. They will start swim lessons in July. I have signed them up for several things in an attempt to lessen the frequency of the boredom buster showdowns.
All of this has gotten me thinking, though. Didn't there used to be a time when kids used their imagination? Where are the lazy, sweltering summer days of the Sandlot, of baseball in the park until moms called ten times for skinned-kneed, dirt covered boys to come home for dinner? Where are the days of capture the flag and burning ants under magnifying glasses and making Hollyhock dolls? We don't have video games in our home. I consider them just one more distraction, one more excuse, one more babysitter. I'm already struggling with the tv and computer. I think my goal for this summer may be to make sure my children are spending less time with the screen and more time with the sun. I want my children to know summer like I knew summer. Dirk and I spent all day Memorial Day in the yard tilling, digging and planting. By the end of the day I smelled like sweat and dirt. My fingernails boasted a fresh layer of mud, and I felt that peaceful kind of exhaustion that can only come from a day spent working hard. I thought back to my girlhood summer days when I would come home at dinnertime famished and smelling of a combination of dirt, sunscreen, grass and chlorine, every muscle in my body tired. My uncle Brian runs the detention center for local youth. He told me once about his first experience taking some of the boys from the center on a hike. Many of them had never seen a forest before. These boys were all over the age of 12, and they had never been on a hike nor seen a forest. I wanted to cry. Thankfully, my kids have seen many forests; they've been camping in them, in fact. As with all things in life, there has to be moderation. I am certain that the tv will still find it's way into the routine some days, and that's ok. I am determined, for my part, however, to urge my kids to be part of the imagination generation, not the instant gratification generation. And with that, I think I'll close the computer and take my kids for a walk.