As we kick off the celebration of summer vacation, I feel it only fair to tell you: We are taking you off life support.
All right, not life support, but electronic devices, which to your minds may be the same thing.
I realized, recently, that you are two of the most spoiled children in America. OK, not spoiled. You are both well-behaved, polite, honor roll students. We couldn’t ask for nicer children, really. The word I am looking for may be “indulged.”
Since infancy you have always had everything you needed, along with a host of things you clearly did not. I am happy we can provide a stable home, a bounty of toys, extracurricular activities, and all the accouterments of a comfortable life.
With that out of the way, however, I feel it only fair to note that I think your father and I have cheated you out of the real key of a happy childhood: Making do.
We have provided you no good “in my day” stories. You know, how a grandfather might have had to drop out of school in the 10th grade? How mommy had to walk to school from kindergarten on?
How during long car rides we had only our imaginations, maybe a book, and the capacity to kick the driver’s seat and say “are we there yet?” 1,000 or so times in rapid succession to amuse us?
Clearly, you are deprived. What in the WORLD are you going to tell your kids?
That you rode to school each day in cosseted comfort and style? That your mother picked you up every day after school so you didn’t have to face the discomfort (and exposure to all the good cuss words) that occurred if you rode the bus? That when we drove anywhere you had personal music players, a host of movies, electronic games to provide for your riding comfort?
That we, a family with exactly two children, purchased a vehicle that seats seven simply to accommodate your friends?
This summer, I hope to remedy the ways your father and I let you down. I want you to experience, at least here and there, the kind of summer your father and I enjoyed as children.
It’s summertime and the livin’ may not be easy, but it will be fun.
Kids in our day enjoyed digging holes as big and deep as they could in the yard to try to find dinosaur bones. Never found any bones, but they did find out how much their dad’s disliked holes in the yard. (This will never work in your case because your father enjoys nothing better than digging holes. He may help).
Speaking of holes, the leftover mud is the perfect ingredient for mud pies. Complete with sprinkles (rocks) and candles (sticks) for special occasions.
For more fun with filth, your grandmother recalls playing in soft tar in sun-baked parking lots until it coated the bottom of her bare feet like built-in shoes! This probably drove her mother insane, but they had Lava soap — that took everything off, including your skin.
I don’t know if they have Lava soap anymore. It had little bits of rock in it and was scratchy. It probably got beat out by all the anti-bacterial stuff people embrace now. That’s silly because I’m pretty sure that Lava was anti-bacterial by default. Once you peel off that first layer of skin, any germs you had probably go with it.
Creatively, we “painted” the driveways and sidewalks with water on hot summer days — had to paint fast as it evaporated quickly!
Furthering the art vein, I grew up in a neighborhood with old slate sidewalks. Slate can be scratched with a rock to create “chalk drawings.” As a child, I spent many happy hours essentially scratching rocks together — caveman style.
We fashioned gum wrappers into long chains — pop tabs, too — back in the day when they peeled completely off the can. We used coffee cans and string to make stilts and scoured the neighborhood for bits and pieces of junk and wood and built tree houses and “forts.”
Forts were huge. Apparently most suburban areas were just one kid-fort away from being completely overrun by marauders. It’s a good thing we were all on patrol.
In short, we used our imaginations, made do with found objects, and were most definitely unplugged. I can’t recall that “Mom, I need new batteries!” came up very often.
If we needed to recharge our batteries, we took dining room chairs and sheets, made a tent. Or maybe a fort. Even when resting you have to watch out for marauders.
Not to mention all the electronic time-wasters that will steal your childhood if you don’t unplug once in a while.