I should be sleeping, but just like most nights, I’ve managed to make it into the wee morning hours scrolling through posts on Tumblr. This one in particular, from Early Onset of Night , caught my eye:
“I’d like to mention a special kind of bullshit that has taken hold in this country over the last 30 or 40 years. It’s a form of bullshit that can really only be called “child worship”. It’s this excessive devotion to children. I’m talking about today’s professional parents, these obsessive diaper-sniffers, who are over-scheduling and over-managing their children and robbing them of their childhoods. Even the simple act of playing has been taken away from children and put on Mommy’s schedule in the form of “play-dates”. Something that should be spontaneous and free is now being rigidly planned. When does a kid ever get to sit in a yard with a stick anymore? You know, just sit there with a fucking stick? Do today’s kids even know what a stick is? You sit in a yard with a fucking stick and you dig a fucking hole. And you look at the hole and you look at the stick and you have a little fun.”
~George Carlin, It’s All Bullshit And It’s Bad For You
I was just thinking about this the other day. When I was a kid…when I was really young, like ages 3-5, the things I played with most were:
- a dirt pile under the tree in my backyard. I’d make piles of dirt, and then I’d dig through them, using a sifter to find pebbles, and studying the occasional worm. Sometimes, I’d make a small indentation in the top of one of these dirt piles. Then, I’d use a plastic watering can to add just a tiny bit of water, enough to watch it trickle down the sides of the dirt “mountain”. Then I’d smash my hands into it, feeling the dirt and water push through my fingers. Once I’d demolished the mountain, my hands would be caked with dirt, so I’d scratch designs into my palms using my fingernail, or a small twig. I could spend HOURS doing this.
- “helicopters”. You know, those little seed pods from maple trees? The street I grew up on was lined with them. I’d pick the seed pods up from the sidewalk, and then toss them in the air to watch them flutter back down to the ground. I’d disect them with my thumbnail, very meticulously splitting the fleshy part of the pod, and then pulling out the bright green seeds. When the pods dried out and turned brown, I’d pull the “wings” apart along the veins.
- dandelions. I’d pick them and make myself a bouquet of “flowers”. I’d rub them against my skin to leave yellow streaks. I’d blow on them and watch the seeds scatter.
- “snakes”. The long, brown seed pods that come from carob trees or honey locusts. Sometimes, I’d toss them around, pretending that I was in a pit of snakes. Other times, I’d just sit on the ground and pull them apart, one seed at a time.
Sure, I had toys. A big wheel. A few dolls and stuffed animals. A swingset. But most of my time was spent outside, in my yard, alone…using my imagination and exploring.
Do kids even spend any time outside anymore? Is there any such thing as truly free time? Would a child even know what their imagination is, if I were to tell them to use it?
I understand that not every parent feels comfortable with just leaving their kid alone in the yard all day now. And I understand that the structure of scheduled activities can be a very good thing for kids. But when do we draw the line and say “enough”? It seems we’re doing our kids a disservice by scheduling every single moment, and structuring every single aspect of their lives. What happens to these kids when things don’t go as planned? What happens when they’re ultimately left to their own devices?
Do kids, and people in general, ever have time alone with their minds anymore? Is there room for creativity and imagination for today’s kids? I sure hope so.