Do our kids spend less time outdoors these days than we did at their age? It sure seems like it. (Spoiler alert: Here comes a “back in my day” story.) I recall lots of summer days when my brothers and I would head outside in the morning with our bikes and baseball gloves, circle back for lunch, then wander through yards, fields, and alleys until dinnertime. We were like a swarm of locusts—noisy neighborhood kids playing tag, chasing dogs, stomping through gardens, and harassing delivery drivers—but our moms obviously preferred that sort of free-range mayhem over having us inside watching Three Stooges and Bugs Bunny reruns on TV. Would I have spent so much time outdoors if we’d had 250 channels on our television, if we’d had central air conditioning, if I’d had my own hand-held computer/telephone? I’ll never know. We didn’t have them, so we spent most of our days on the run. That’s just the way childhood was in 1970s suburbia.
And the way childhood is in 2018 is, well, just the way it is. Hopefully better, definitely not worse, simply different. I’m not one of those cranky adults who considers today’s youth psychologically inferior because they don’t “rough it” like we did—or we imagine we did. My reality, and I assume most of your realities, is we had everything we needed as kids: friends, toys, candy, and the great outdoors. We didn’t walk 10 miles uphill both ways to anywhere, especially school.
I can’t say I’m not a little wistful reading through “Our Great Outdoors” and wishing my teenage kids already knew these places like the backs of their hands. I also wish I didn’t have to make sure they had their cell phones when going out with their friends. And I wish the Reds were in first place. But you play the hand you’re dealt.
So I’ll organize an outing to Devou Park with my kids, and get it on their schedule. Yes, you can bring a friend. No, leave the video game controllers. The pavilion probably has AC if we get hot. You won’t believe the view, and it’s uphill just one way.