Why Childhood Should be Simple
The Good Ol' Days
Seven in the morning was my typical wake up time as a kid: I had crucial engagements to attend to! I would pull on my OshKosh overalls, yank on my sneakers, blast through my Cheerios and I was bolting out the door. Because of all the kids in the neighborhood, my grandma's house was the place to be. She and my papa lived in a picture-perfect neighborhood complete with porch swings, climbable mulberry trees, and at least one kid per house.
One of my most treasured memories I have from that neighborhood was when my cousin and I went from house to house rounding up as many kids as possible for a game of kickball. We must have gathered 20 or more kids, both boys and girls, ranging from six to thirteen. And we all had one thing in common: we just wanted to play. Laughter filled the streets, scraped knees and elbows were passed around like chewing gum, and the sun was slowly making its downward trek, illuminating the horizon with shades of pink.
Most of us had to persuade our parents to let us skip dinner, as finishing our game was of the utmost importance to our young souls. As the evening carried on, our guiltless conviction to keep the laughter alive engraved deeper within us; and the roots of lasting friendships began to place avid holds on our hearts. The sun was setting, the air was cooling, and lightening bugs lit up our world. Reflecting back on my childhood, it was evenings such as this one that were so fundamental to the prosperity of my soul and the construction of my character.
A Simple Childhood
Being able to play, share, fight and forgive as children is so essential, so vital to our development as social humans. Looking back at the actions and motives of us kids, I realize just how simple-minded we were. As children, we lived in the “here and now.” The few times we ever thought more than a day into the future was if there was a birthday party to go to, Christmas was near, or if a vacation was fast approaching.
We accepted fallout, loss, and defeat with an “I just need to shake this off and everything will be okay again” mentality. We did not judge, contemplate to the point of exhaustion, or hold grudges for more than an hour. We were kids! We played in the dirt, ate things we shouldn't have, forgot as quickly as we forgave, and most importantly, learned naturally how to communicate with others.
Today’s world is quite different from what I remember as a child. When I occasionally drive through the neighborhood I grew up in, I notice that something is missing: children playing outside. The days of backyard kickball games, baseball in the street, and hopscotch-filled sidewalks seem to be long gone.
While some parents still bring up their children the good-old-fashioned way, many are not – it is as if many of us have forgotten how to. Technology seems to have erased that nostalgia of our childhood, that reminiscent feeling that helps us remember why we should pass it along to our children - to hand down to them a childhood of beautiful simplicity.
Fast Moving World
Today’s world is fast. Every other week a new phone is launched, a new update frustrates the many inhabitants of Facebook, and the living room television grows another five inches. The pace of society is increasing, and children are forced to keep up.
While visiting some friends at a coffee shop the other day, I noticed a small child playing with a smart phone. Immediately, I figured that it was his parents' - that is until I saw that they had their own phones. Because of my curious nature, I glanced back at the child a few times and noticed how involved he was with his smart phone - I assumed he was playing a game of some kind.
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When I was seven years old, the only technology I carried around with me was the five-dollar calculator in my backpack. While technology does have its useful place in society, does a small child need to be introduced to it at such a young age? Or rather, should technology be replaced with genuine human-to-human interaction?
Simple Ways to Let Kids Be Kids
Here are some things I remember doing as a kid.
- Lemonade stands - kids learn the value of a dollar, and they learn how to interact with others.
- Neighborhood ball games - learn healthy competition, and learn to accept defeat. All while forming bonds.
- Trips to the park
- Build forts
- Hide and seek
- Help mom or grandma bake cookies - Learn how to appreciate others' help
- Help dad or grandpa build something - My grandpa built a wooden swing-set in the backyard and he let me help. I will never forget that.
- Summer camp - The best opportunity to gain confidence and learn how to trust and interact with others. Many organizations like the YMCA and churches will help pay for your child to attend if you cannot afford it
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What Is Truly Important
Some parents will argue, justifiably, that today’s world is not as safe as it was in the past to allow their children to go outside and play without supervision. And while that argument does hold some weight, that doesn't mean kids should be resorted to constant video games, computers, or television.
Children need movement, interaction, and challenges. I will forever treasure the engaging activities of my childhood like neighborhood games, hiking, camping, fishing, and gardening with my grandma - just to name a few. Those activities helped shape who I am – a social human. Children who are face-planted into Xbox or social-networking sites for hours each day are not learning how to communicate and interact with other children in a normal medium. Real life is face to face, not face to computer screen.
While entirely cutting out the latest technology in exchange for old ways is impossible, we can find middle ground – a happy medium. Evolution is a part of life and a constantly changing world is something we all must accept. But as with everything, moderation is key.
Let us look back and remember the simplicity of life, when knocking that kickball out of the park and scoring a homerun is what we went to bed smiling about. Let’s give that to our children. They deserve it.
Do you think children today are missing out on valuable experiences that we had when we were younger?
© 2012 Marissa D. Carnahan