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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ah, the Good 'ol Days

My daughter asked me yesterday, “When you were a little girl did you read from scrolls?” In other words, are you so old that books hadn’t been invented yet when you were my age?


Excuse me for a minute while I find my dentures. Things have changed from my generation to theirs, but not that much. Have they?

I love having my kids home for the summer. I truly do. But these past few months have caused me to wonder: who was the first kid to utter the words I’m bored. I know I said them as a kid. A lot. I’m pretty sure my parents did, too. Not quite as certain about my grandparents. Did pioneer kids grumble I’m bored? Probably not. They were probably too busy splitting firewood and warding off wolves. Does the phrase go back as far as Cain and Abel, or is I’m bored a sign of our modern times?

And I wonder if parents throughout time respond like I do: “How can you be bored with all of this stuff?”

My kids own plenty of things to keep them entertained, including DVD’s. I know I’ve told my kids that back in my day, I was only able to watch my favorite movie, “The Wizard of Oz” once a year on a low definition, black and white rabbit ear set, which kind of puts a damper on the whole spectacular-ness of munchkin land. (Until I was around eight and we got a color TV. I sure could relate to Dorothy’s delighted surprise then.)

I’ve also told my kids that counting cows from the car window is entertainment.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not anti-gadget or anti-technology. During our long drive to South Dakota this summer I thanked my lucky stars when the kids sat glaze-eyed in front of Tangled. And I love the ease and accessibility of the Internet. Just this morning I was able to find over a hundred hits for “Vietnamese Chicken”. So in no way am I advocating the halt of technology or that we live in caves. But striking a balance between the curses and blesses of modern day and “the good old days” (which I realize is a bit relative) can be tricky.

The words “Do something creative!” have passed my lips a few times this summer. TV and video games are fine, even fun, but I also want my kids to understand that we were, in part, created to create, not just consume.

Instead of watching a video, make a video. Or draw a comic strip. Or paint a piece of wood. Of play store. Or school. Or play with Star Wars figures/Polly Pockets. Or make cupcakes. Or play a song. Or go outside and look for treasures, ie rocks and feathers and pinecones.

If I’m honest, these activities are harder to do because not only do they require more from my kids, they require more from me as a mom. And creative activities will most likely lead to some level of frustration- both for child and parent- and undoubtedly lead to a big, giant mess. Hands down, it’s much easier on me when my kids are in front of the TV (Which they are plenty. Right at this moment, actually. Trust me, I have not “conquered” anything.)

And as my son nears adolescence, it’s getting harder and harder to veer him into anything that doesn’t require electricity. Even my six year old pulled out her Sponge Bob toy from her happy meal the other day, set it on the table, and asked, “But what does it do?”

Whatever you want him to do, Darling. You play with it. You get to be a creator.