As a mother, I want a lot for my children.
I want them to be happy, to cure cancer, to be compassionate and well-loved individuals, and to marry into Bill Gates’ millions.
What I want most of all, however, is for them to play outside.
Who knew the latter would be the most impractical wish?
Fresh Air Fund. For over 100 years, the Fresh Air Fund has been working with rural families to provide country vacations for inner-city children.
The vacations free of “double-locked doors and crowded apartments,” and allow children to run in meadows, wade in cool rivers, and pluck berries from the vine.
Meanwhile, the “country kids” blessed with year-round front porch access to the fresh air fund would like nothing better than to be left indoors to shrivel – glassy-eyed and pasty – before a television or video monitor.
As I recently browbeat the 8-year-old with, “Some kids NEVER get to play outside and have to stay indoors day after day!” He, unmoved, muttered darkly, “Yeah, some kids have all the luck.”
Persistence. Undaunted, as a bona fide “country mom” for whom suburban sidewalks and playmates next door are just a pipe dream, I think that climbing a tree, starting sunbeam fires with a magnifying glass, or trapping fireflies in glass jars is infinitely more enriching than watching TV or holding a video game inches from the nose.
Unfortunately, neither of my children has, thus far, shown any real interest in forestry, entomology, or arson.
As a result, I have already logged an inordinate amount of time in this first week of summer vacation repeating, ad nauseam, “just go OUTSIDE!”
Torture. My children react to this as if I have just sentenced them to hard time with a chain gang.
My son, in particular, carries on as if he’s punching a time clock at the coal mines when he ventures beyond the shade of the porch.
I think he wants time and a half if he stays overtime on the trampoline.
Mind you, we have a cavernous barn full of bikes, trikes, battery powered cars and scooters. We have hula hoops and balls to kick, hit, throw and dodge; a creek, multiple acres, woods, trees, an enormous swingset, a trampoline and a swimming pool.
Obviously, the children are hopelessly bored.
Creativity. This is not to say that there aren’t high points in the creativity of your more intrepid country kids.
Recently, while talking to a friend on the telephone, I overheard her shout to her boys, “Don’t shoot your shoes!”
Certainly, you wouldn’t think that would be a phrase you would ever have reason to think or utter.
But, if you are parenting preteen boys on a long, hot afternoon, apparently you would.
In this case, her boys were using their shoes to prop up the plywood they were using for target practice.
This, I might add, shows a certain ingenuity and commendable creative genius on their part.
She, however, with the obvious lack of foresight that so often plagues parents, had serious reservations of how this might work out for the shoes.
This was only day three of summer vacation. I can only imagine what thrills those boys might be into by August!
Change. Meanwhile, back in our neck of the woods, I am taking a stand!
We are going to lose the television remote, take the batteries out of the Game Boy, and reintroduce the children to their own back yard.
We might make popsicles, fly a kite, get dizzy on the tire swing, and eat far more ice cream than anyone really should.
We’re going to catch those fireflies (but release them – I promise) and we are going to camp out in our own backyard.
We’ll lose a lot of balls to the woods, and to the dogs.
And, knowing us, we’ll probably get sunburned.
I suggest you do the same – sans the sunburn – wherever you live.
Just remember that when it comes to summer, it’s important to remember two things: Always wear sunscreen and don’t shoot your shoes.
Kymberly Foster Seabolt leaves her own shoes safely stashed away from her feet all summer long. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460, or http://userweb.epohi.com/~kseabolt.
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