Get Out Of Here!
I think that starting fires with a magnifying glass on the sidewalk and pulling the wings off Japanese beetles in the back yard is better (and infinitely more educational) than fiddling around with a joystick or watching TV inside the house. But my kids arenít really interested in entomology or arson. Theyíd rather use the computer to play Snood or send coded instant messages to their friends (g2g, POS Ė thatís "got to go, thereís a parent looking over my shoulder" in my daughterís tribal language).
This is not the childhood I envisioned for my kids. I imagined them catching tadpoles in the local creek and romping in the back yard with golden retriever puppies. I did not picture them holed up in a dark room shooting aliens, downloading demonic pop music from Aimster or watching The Osbournes.
Especially not in June.
Although Iím on a year-round campaign to get my kids to turn off the television and step away from the computer, Iím at my most maniacal when itís nice out. This year, I am even contemplating a moratorium on TV and computer games that would last from Memorial Day until they go away to college. Maybe then, theyíd play outside.
When we bought our house eight years ago, my husband and I were concerned that the yard was too small to fit a climbing structure, a basketball hoop and a soccer goal. We shouldnít have worried. None of the kids ever play in the back yard. In fact, they donít even know where the back yard is. Thatís because unless thereís a blackout, theyíre playing on the computer or watching TV inside. But things are going to change this summer. My kids are going to play outdoors.
Yesterday, the sun was shining, the birds were singing and my three kids were hunched over the computer in the den. I marched into the room on a mission.
"Go outside," I ordered as I clicked off the computer monitor.
"But thereís nothing to do outside," my daughter muttered. "Itís boring."
"Can I bring the laptop outside?" the youngest queried.
"NO!" I was getting mad. "When I was a kid we didnít have computers. We played outside with sticks."
"Gee, that sounds like fun," the 8-year-old noted sarcastically. His eyes never left the blank screen.
"It was," I said. "Besides, youíre going to burn your retinas if you keep staring at the computer. Go outside."
"Do we have to?" they pleaded.
I was firm. They were going outside and they were going to have fun. I pushed them out the back door and watched from the kitchen window. They were a pathetic sight. The three kids stood squinting into the sunlight. They looked like inmates in a prison yard plotting their big break.
"Play!" I yelled out the door.
"There are no sticks out here," the 8-year-old complained.
Disgusted, I strode into the yard and found an ancient soccer ball that was lodged under a bush. I kicked it at my oldest son. He punted it to his sister. She headed it and the 8-year-old dribbled it the length of the yard. They found some sticks and made goals.
"Mom," my daughter yelled for me from outside. "If you play, we can have teams."
"OK," I agreed. "But only for a little while."
Soon our cheers and screams attracted the kids next door and I slipped unnoticed back into the house to rejoice. My children were playing outside! They were getting exercise, breathing fresh air and it even sounded like they were having fun. Best of all, they were out of the house. Now, I could use the computer. G2G!
Carol Band writes this column while her children play outside. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.