Memorial Day seemed like it came out of nowhere this year, and we didn't really make any plans at all, added to the fact that Levy's ballet recital was Friday night, so we found ourselves with a free weekend with "nothing" to do. No plans. I was tired, and it had been a really REALLY long time since I just sat down and flipped through a magazine or dare I say read an actual book, so we decided to just hang out at home. I bought a ten dollar baby pool at Target, turned the sprinkler on in the backyard, and just let the kids run around and play. We hauled out the bean bag toss game, the croquet set, all of the various sports balls we own (which are many), the dogs lazed around on the grass, and we laid out a picnic blanket to just lay and read books on. At some point during the weekend I realized that no one had asked to play video games, no one wanted to "play my phone" (which is an almost constant request nowadays) and the TV hadn't been turned on all day long. I also realized I hadn't played "cruise director" for the kids at all, figuring out things for them to do to avoid the dreaded "boredom". Usually I am the one that makes all the plans, finds little activities or stuff to do, and for the most part that stuff is great, but the kids (and the adults too) also just need some time to do nothing. It was amazing.
It got me thinking about what my childhood was like growing up. No computers, no video games (okay we had an Atari and eventually Nintendo, but didn't play them nearly as much as kids do now), no cellphones, we didn't even have call waiting till I was in high school. We lived on a quiet street and were lucky enough to be able to go into the backyard or ride bikes by ourselves around the neighborhood with friends, and would come up with our own games like "Fire Department" or the always popular "Hot Lava" game where you couldn't touch the grass (because it was hot lava of course). We actually climbed trees and picked berries and plums to eat, caught bugs and played tag, we would stay outside all hours of the day until it was finally time to come in for dinner. At night we would even play epic games of "Manhunt" with friends with the teams separated into "dogs vs cats", where you would have to either bark or meow to alert your team that you had been captured by the enemy. Those games seemed to last hours and hours, and no adults played, just kids. Sure, I had toys, but mostly in the warmer months it was just my brothers and friends and bikes, trees and maybe a baseball. Hours upon seemingly endless hours of just running around in our own little world together, and it was magical.
I want to have that for my own kids, now, even with all the distractions we have. Although my work is mainly on the internet and I spend probably more time than I should on the computer, I want to make sure I give them enough of that real, true "old fashioned childhood" time. Hours without plans or somewhere to go, time to just run around free and make up games. Ice pops and kiddie pools and hula hoops and bug jars. Skinned knees and wet ponytails, jumping off of swings and digging in the dirt.
My older two are definitely getting to the age where I need to hover less, and let them go out and explore more, and that is what I plan to do this summer. I am also toying with the idea of just unplugging them totally for the summer to see what happens. No iPhone games or X-Box, only an occasional movie here and there on a rainy day. I feel like I can make the hours stretch out even longer for them by having them fill them on their own, unstructured, choosing what games they want to play and how many hours they want to lay around and read books. My weekend of doing nothing was exactly what I needed, and the time spent doing nothing felt a lot more valuable than running around in the car from place to place. I'm starting a checklist of "old fashioned childhood" things I hope my kids experience this summer, feel free to add yours to the list as well... xoxo
- catching fireflies
- lighting sparklers
- having a watermelon seed spitting contest
- an occasional bomb pop
- building a fort
- bare feet in the grass
- water balloons
- ice cream from the ice cream man
- tents in the backyard
- buttery, salty corn on the cob
- wiffle ball
- drive in movies
- lots and lots of bike riding
- sand castles
- sucking on fresh honeysuckle blossoms