So far this summer has been a busy one, almost unusually so from my perspective.
Gone are the days of sitting in the backyard with a gang of little boys climbing the trees, swinging on the swingset and eating a Nutella sandwich lunch on the patio. Gone is the wading pool with the Little Tikes slide leading into it, for an added challenge for our little daredevils. Also gone are the days of letting the day direct itself and deciding at a moment’s notice to go exploring, head to the public pool/beach or visiting a park with nothing else on our calendar for the day (with the exception of thinking of what to make for dinner when my husband came home). The days would drift into one another and each day had it’s own reward at the end of time well spent being “us” and the lack of time constraints that school always imposes.
Some of those days would not be the best summer weather days and we would have to go to “plan B” of finding an indoor activity to keep us all busy and happy (and for mommy to be sane by dinner time) Those days we would get out the playdoh, or paints, or beads and make craft projects with the cd player blasting the latest kids music, or break out the Duplo Legos and build the biggest block tower we could reach – usually only about 5 feet due to my height restrictions. And still, some days, we would get out all of our games and play until we were tired of taking turns. Our middle son had an addiction to “CandyLand” and a bit later “Yahtzee”, our oldest to “Obstgarten” and “Quips” (both European games introduced to us by our favorite German friends/family) Once our youngest came along he picked up where the other two boys left off and also favored “CandyLand”, “Obstgarten”, “Quips” and “Yahtzee” as well as currently “Monopoly” and “Sorry Sliders” (he’s six by the way) We also play card games (that may or may not involve a bit of gambling…some things have to be done to keep the adults interested every now and then) and the boys have all learned how to play chess and checkers (some better than others!)
The challenges can go on for days!
This summer I have come to realize that we may not be “normal” by the American standard (what else is new?) We have spent time with other families, had playdates at our house, and realized that we may be the only family around that actually plays games?! On a board?! It’s the one of the most amazing things I have witnessed since moving back stateside.
Just last month while visiting with a group of families I was stunned to find a group of preteen and teenage girls had never played “Scrabble” or “Yahtzee” before, plus they didn’t have any idea HOW the games were played. We’ve had playdates that six year old boys have never played “Sorry” or checkers or “Trouble” or any other young game and they also had no idea how to play. My youngest takes it all in stride and offers to teach anyone who will learn so he can have a chance to win, of course.
But this all got me thinking, and worrying, that maybe this is becoming a lost art. Maybe we are all getting too busy to actually sit down and play a game with our kids, to teach them how to take turns and how to win and lose. It’s really a very basic idea, but one that is on it’s way out unless we pay attention.
I realize that we are in a new age of technology and kids all want an i-Pod touch or i-Phone or DSLite or…whatever is new and cool on the market. I also realize that it is sometimes easier to just hand them a handheld game or turn on the TV and keep them busy while you get your “stuff done” (I’m just as guilty as the next parent, of that I am sure) but I am sensing that some of us do it more often than we really need. Parenting isn’t just keeping them healthy and safe, fed and clothed, loved and protected. Parenting is also about teaching, sharing, leading by example. It’s taking the time even when you’d much rather read the paper or watch the latest reality TV show or just sit and be alone. I feel that if we don’t do it now we will regret it later with a new generation of adults who have fewer values in human contact, know how to win and lose and play by the rules.
Our two oldest boys are old enough to not want to play games now, but they still do play. Sometimes I rely on them to play a game with our youngest while I get dinner ready or finish a load of laundry, whatever, but they play. They still play with their i-Pods and DSLs but they also love to sit around the table and play “Yahtzee” or “Monopoly” or challenge each other to a game of chess.
Maybe it’s just us…but I hope not.