Where have all the childhoods gone?

Are you ready for a rant? I hope so because I feel a good one coming on....

When I was a kid, I was very active. I was a cub scout, occasionally attempted to play little league (I was hands down the worst baseball player ever), I wrestled from the time I was in 2nd grade until I was overcome with a fit of teenage angst and quit the team during my 9th grade year. I was in plays, I played the tuba in the band, I sang constantly (in the school choirs, my church choir, and whenever else I felt like it) (and yes, I know it's hard to believe that I ever went to church let alone be in the choir). As I got older, into high school anyway, I kept at it with hockey, scouts, and I got a part time job. I was pretty busy, or so I thought. Even as busy as I seemed, I still had time to walk in the woods after school, go fishing, do massive amounts of chores around the house (my mouth was responsible for most of that), learned how to drive, work on motors, and hang around with a close-knot group of neighborhood friends. Some of us got a band together and more than one person would say we were pretty decent. In short, as busy as I was, I still had time to just be. Just be fishing, just be skating on a local pond if it froze, just be pestering the local neighborhood curmudgeon by specifically going where he told us not to....I recent heard he passed away and turned out to be a huge hoarder. I can't say I'm surprised but I digress...

Do kids today have time to get in trouble? Life wasn't perfect for us growing up but it wasn't too bad. I'm not ashamed to say I was a latch-key kid. My father left the house for work before our bus arrived and we were expected to be ready to go and on that bus. And we were. When we got home from school, we were expected to do our homework (at home) and then go outside and play. We did. We never got kidnapped, we occasionally got bruised and cut, as any kid should, and we rarely did anything really bad because one of the neighbors might see us and tell my father and then I'd really be in for it. There were consequences for negative behaviors but we enjoyed a great deal of being outside, expected to be home, and expected to have our chores done. Was it always nice? No. Was it as perfect as I'm portraying it here? No, but you know what, that's life. There were a few things that could have been better but I survived pretty well. 

I run into a lot of people, kids and adults, who are over-scheduled. It's easy to do. Some people even think it's responsible parenting. I don't but that's okay. In my experience, the hardest thing about parenting is allowing your kids to fail. It's not nice, it doesn't feel good, but that failure is called learning. A lot of that learning happens in unstructured play time with peers. Kids on the playground, grown men watching football in the the living room with their buddies putting entirely too much time and effort into fantasy leagues, ladies having a ladies night out with their girlfriends, that guy Bob down the street constantly mowing his lawn....

I really started to understand music while playing in a rock band and writing songs. Our band did covers and originals and we had a good time. We even played a few gigs. If someone offered me a Delorean with a flux capacitor in it, I would hop in and go back to that small room with those guys and just play to my heart's content. I don't know how many kids today would be able to do that because they're scheduled for everything. It's sad for me to think that some kids who should be rocking out will never get to feel how good it is to crank up your tiny practice amp and play loud music with your friends. 

One of the other things that this over-scheduling is affecting is other activities. I've been trying to work this out in my head and I haven't solved it yet because this part of the rant is a Catch-22 of sorts. There are a lot of activities that overlap now. Sports overlap with scout meetings, a play rehearsal overlaps with a choir rehearsal, band practice overlaps with swim team...the list could go on and on. I happen to be connected with two very special communities, the one I live in and the one I used to live in and stay involved with on a part-time basis. From my perspective, there aren't enough kids in both communities to sustain the number of activities that are going on in those communities. The scouts suffer because little Billy wants to play soccer and is then rushed over to scouts and misses most of the programming. The program for scouts isn't as good as it could be because so few scouts are there on time, if at all. And no one talks to each other about this stuff. Everyone's got blinders on, and these kids don't know how to just go goof around in the woods after-school. How did I learn how to use a hose? I had to to clean the mud of me from goofing around in the woods after-school. Did my tuba playing suffer? No, but I'll bet a lot of my family suffered from my tuba playing. I played after dark. 

So what is the point of this rant, you ask? Perhaps you don't care what the point is....perhaps there is no point, just a moral (is there a difference?). The point is that too many people in our world go around with blinders on, oblivious to what's going on around them. Wow, how does this tie in with the above paragraphs? People are so obsessed with running their kid hear, signing them up for this, keeping themselves and their kids busy that no one takes time to smell the roses. No one stops to look at the world around them or understand the impact they have on their community. Their kids are busy and that some how makes them good parents. We wear our badges of exhaustion and business by the size of the coffee cup we drink from every morning. We train our kids to be on the hamster wheel of the rat race. We don't stop to think about what's really important. 

I'm a proud parent when I hear my son playing a tune he made up, or just figured out by playing with notes. I'm proud when he makes obscure references to pieces of useless information. I'm really proud to see the comics that he writes, developing story line and characters over long periods of time. He does that during unstructured time. I'm proud when he crashes his bike or scooter and gets back on it. I'm proud when I turn around on a hike and see him examining something on the ground. I enjoy watching him talk to the dog. On a recent expedition to an uninhabited island, he made a series of "franken-crabs" out of bits of crab left behind by seagulls. I was so proud my heart nearly beat out of my chest. 

I'm sure many of you could consider your own situation and then tear my statements to shreds. That's okay, I'm not going to be offended. I'm going to stay active in my community and try to model for my son what a balanced life should look like. I'm not always going to be successful but I'm going to leave time to jam out, to explore, to build franken-crabs. It's amazing what you can do simply messing around in boats, or anywhere for that matter. 

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