Saturday, June 6, 2009

Use it While You've Got It

I could rant about video games and how very much I despise their existence at any given time. I can quote all kinds of statistics and research, and I can point to the evils of how it affects children so detrimentally. I don't really have anything new to add to that, but today I saw something that made part of my thoughts on this topic explode with frustration all over again.

We were at a backyard concert on a beautiful, sunny, 65-70 degree June day. There was a plethora of kids available, and a climber, swing set, and foam thingies with which many boys were busily whacking each other, which is What Boys Do. Better yet, in my opinion, there was an inviting green hill, away from the boring grown ups, but still in safe sight. The hill had tempting trees all around and nearby it, and the mystery of what was on the other side of the hill as well. There was an enormous and beautiful evergreen tree, which just begged to be inspected, and the entire front yard which was also a grown up free zone. I heard tell there was a lake nearby as well.

As I stood up to stretch my sore, cramped, out of shape legs, and shake out my joints which cannot be in one position for too long, I turned around and my How Things Should Be temper flared. Sitting, or rather, growing, in two camp chairs, were two young boys. Their bodies were folded forward and their eyes were glued to the cute, portable, plastic video games in their hands. The only moving parts were their fingertips and possibly they blinked. I was outraged. I wanted to hunt down their parents and lecture them. I wanted to march up there and take those damn games and chuck them in the lake.

I wanted to shout, "WAKE UP BECAUSE YOU ARE MISSING YOUR CHILDHOOD!!!! Your body can still move and jump and run and heal with ease and beauty! Get your ass out of those chairs and go PLAY! Make trouble, climb a tree, have a sword fight with dangerous sticks and get your ankles scratched and mosquito bitten! Go breathe deeply from running hard, and just WONDER what is over that hill! Notice that the sky is clouding up and that the air is changing. Know the difference between the different birds and bugs that fly by you. You have who-knows-how-much of your life left and you are spending this precious time in a virtual world that means nothing and will not benefit you emotionally, socially, or academically. You will be old someday and all you WILL be able to move are your fingertips and your eyeballs! Use your legs and arms and muscles while you can! Go tame Nature or let it tame you. Or at the very least, TALK to each other! Giggle and laugh and find out what other people are doing or thinking. BE a child."

But I settled for staring and making one or two disgusted comments, which probably earned me some more "negative hateful" reputational perspectives.

Now, I have to get my ass out of this chair and my eyes and fingertips away from this computer, and go talk to my husband and watch my bird feeder.



  1. We walk a fine line with Jacob in this area, and I'll be the first to admit I can now see my mistake. We have always been careful about the content of his computer world exposure, but as he gets older I see that content is not the only danger. I think for me, I'm always underestimating him. Reading about how alluring the big trees were for you in that yard, I found myself thinking "Sadly, I think some kids are not taught to appreciate nature and look at it that way. A tree doesn't look fun because nobody ever showed them how fun it could be." Then I began thinking about ways we have and have not exposed the kids to the joy that can be found out there. I think all this time I've been thinking his comfort is in his video time...well, it was - but only because we haven't showed him how he can still shut off from the pressures of life and escape into a different place in a natural way. I think of all the lessons you have taught our family this year, this has been the biggest one for me. Actually, 2 - 1)He needs more outdoors and less technology and 2)Expose him!! He may be a different boy than the one I've painted him into a corner to be. Thank you for the difference you have made in our lives!! I'm glad you are not too timid to share the beliefs that are dear to you.

  2. Your observation was right on target from the concert. I saw the sight before you and I talked about it. I even asked their parents if they needed something or wanted to go walk them to the lake, or anything else. They said "No, they're good." I thought "No...not really. Just quiet. Convienent."

    I've only met those boys on 2 occassions and although one was content to play on his own tree swing at his house (thankfully) the other boy didn't talk to anyone visiting except to yell when people touched his Legos. Now, I'm pretty sure the kid is somewhere on the Spectrum, but, I don't think he is worked with in those areas much. And that is essential. Like yesterday Noah was drawn away from the heat of the fire and nervousness about playing a sport (although he loved the ribbon twirly thing) and went inside to where some movie was playing. Twice I made him come back outside and once sent Scott to "force" him into coexisting because he needs to do that, even when it is uncomfortable. He'll learn that way. Five minutes of breathing room to calm is one thing, but five minutes can easily spread into an hour if we're not careful. He is learning...and so are we, every day.

    By the way, in those trees at the top of the hill is Mason's favorite get-a-way during every season. He's in "the woods" as he calls it non stop, experimenting and imagining with his friend Nathan---and any of the littler boys that join them. And that hill is great for sledding. :) You'll have to try it next winter.

    Great blog. I love reading your writing!