Wednesday, February 24, 2010

free range children.

I mentioned in my last post that I pretty much stink at playing with my kids. It's not something that comes easily to me. There were a couple of comments in response and also a blog a friend of mine posted that got me thinking and wanting to expand on that.

I'm ok with not being my childrens playmate. But I want to want to play with them. I want to instinctively know when to let go and get down and play.

My oldest always needed attention when he was playing "mom, look at this", "then this guy flies through the air and hits this guy and then  . . ." he always wanted an audience. Frankly, it was exhausting.

I think it's important for children to learn to play on their own. I also think it's sad that I have to say "learn to play on their own".

When I was growing up, you just did. I grew up in a suburban neighborhood, so I often had friends to play with - but there were many times I didn't. In those times there was my younger sister. Or a book. Or some sort of make believe in the back yard, or coloring or twiddling your thumbs. Something.

I mean, as you grow up you expect to not play anymore. I don't know why or when. One day you wake up and don't want to dig in a sandbox I guess, who knows?

But that's when you get older. Like 15 or 30 or 60 or something. Not at 5. Not at 10.

Seems today, many kids (my own included) don't really know how to play. Like it has to be taught. I think because, for so many kids - they don't have time to just be kids. Kids are pretty much shoved into a fast paced world from the minute they can sit up on their own. They are bombarded with TV and Baby Einstein. With programs that 'teach' them to read by 18 months. With play-dates and flash cards. With sports and band and 3 hours of homework a night. 

When they do have downtime, they just want to totally veg. They want mindlessness. TV and video-games, oh boy.

I know how that feels. I've had days coming home from work that I've been so tired the only thing I want to do is lay down and melt my brain in front of the TV for an hour. And I think that's ok sometimes. I'm not anti-TV. I'm not anti-video games.

But. Somewhere along the way - in our quest to make them happy with everything we never had, in our desire for them to get ahead - to be smarter and faster and more talented - our kids stopped being kids. Ok, they never stopped being kids. They stopped being treated like kids and instead like little adults.

I'm guilty of this. Mostly with my oldest. He just always seemed so adult like. Really. He's much wiser then his years, always has been. But you know what? He has no common sense. None. I don't know why.

I felt a little guilt (still do) sometimes - we moved the boys out of a neighborhood - away from their friends and into the country.

Some days, they don't know what to do. And I don't know what to tell them. I can't entertain them all the time. They have to learn how to play. Alone. My youngest is much, much better at this than my oldest.

I have some friends that freak out if their kids go barefoot or play in the mud. Dirt doesn't scare me. I don't mind it, I think there is nothing better than a kid who's been playing so hard he's covered head to toe in mud and sweat.

What I can't handle is the thought of injury. I am no good with blood. So I have to learn to let go. I have to not freak out when they climb a tree. I have to consider that pocket knife my oldest has been bugging me about (he is going to be 12 after all).

Last year, when my oldest was in 5th grade he had around 3 hours of homework a night and at least one project a month. This year he has maybe 30 minutes a night. He has projects, but most of them are done in school. They also have Phys. Ed every other day instead of every 4 days like at the old school, the "better" school.

I am so ok with him having less homework. Really. I don't think more homework makes him smarter or will get him into a better college. I think it bores him and makes him sick of school.

Anyway. I've forgotten exactly where I wanted to go with this.

Basically, I think all of us - the whole damn country, kids and adults - everyone needs to turn off our TVs and our computers and our video games. We need to turn off our ovens for a few minutes and put down the laundry and shut off the vacuum. And go outside and play. Right now. Put on your snow pants or your galoshes or your sunblock and go climb a tree or roll down a hill or jump in the mud.

And bring your kids.


Sara said...

Good lord, Crystal! I totally want to go play with my kids right now! LOL Great post!

I feel guilty that James is 5 and cannot write his name. Maybe I am rebelling against this huge push schools and society have to make kids know know know. IDK, We are working on it, but I think it is a litmus test that James tells me his biggest worry is who is going to button his pants. When in reality, the real world is coming up at him hard and fast, so maybe I'm still fighting to just let him be a kid for a few more months. To just play till his hair stands on end from sweat and cheeks are bright red, that is what I want for James and Jesse, the freedom to play play play. I'll just take pictures. :D ;)

Sara said...

Oh, I forgot to answer your question. Yes, all three of my cats are outdoors. We leave the garage door open/cracked for them to get inside where I have their food and heating pads. I've mentioned before, but they ruined the carpeting and when we got new carpeting two years ago, Jon insisted they go out. I didn't argue. We live in town, so the issue of being eaten is not as big as the issue of them being run over by a car. Among pet-lovers, even among my friends, putting my cats outside made me a bad pet owner and shouldn't even own pets. I've always had outdoor cats and it wasn't until the early 2000's that I was told it was too dangerous for me to put them out and I was shortening their life and basically being a horrible pet owner. I've gotten past it, and my cats have been fine. I just realize the price I pay is that they may very well die of some accident rather than live a long (hopefully) healthy life pissing and ruining my house. It is a hard decision and I know you are in the country, but hopefully there is a compromise you can find. Is putting in a cat door an option? Make a shed available to him? I'd definitely invest in an outdoor heating pad and provide him a covered area to retreat to, but I'm guessing after a few weeks, he'll enjoy it. Just my two cents and it was a long two cents. Sorry!

Country Girl said...

Feel no guilt, kids do need to to play on their own. I have never been one to "play" much with the kids like barbie etc instead we do projects, crafts, play a board game or cook together, go for walks etc. Not all the time. They learn lots going out exploring on their own. My youngest self entertains much better than older one. I am not anti tv, video games, or computer but when I say enough they know.

Butterflie said...

I try and play games with Caitlyn, usually she gets bored before the end of things like CandyLand and quits, but we still try. She's learning not to get upset when I I draw the special cards.

I always played alone growing up, I was at an awkward position in the neighbors. There was a group a few years older than me, then a group around my siblings' ages but not mine. So I didn't quite mesh with either one, I played alone a lot before school started, or if we didn't have daycare (that was a rarity since my mom stayed at home, it was only occasionally)

Caitlyn plays on her own all the time, I feel bad that I have the tv on 24/7 because I can't handle silence. But watching her I realize she watches 10 minutes or so and moves on for about an hour and repeats. So it's not like she sits there and doesn't move. She still plays.

I hate hearing kids today complain of being "bored" there's always something to find to do, read, color, play with siblings, do SOMETHING. (This complaint always got me cleaning duty growing up, so I rarely use it lol)

I wanna see more pics of your house! It sounds like it's a beautiful place to live.

mary said...

what a refreshing post! I let my kids entertain themselves, I let my kids do their own homework, I did not sign my kids up for T-ball at age 3, or soccer at age 6 or dance or piano or gymnastics or any other organized class..and you know what? My oldest daughter was Salutatorian of her class,she is now 20 and in college, has made the Dean's List every semester,she lives on her own,works part time and is HAPPY not stressed. My younger daughter opted for Cyber school last Fall,she finished her Junior year in Jaunary and has started on her Senior schedule and plans to graduate a year early this Spring. All without me holding her hand or her pencil and doing her Science Fair projects or anything-and she is HAPPY not stressed. Amazing.