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How Summer has Changed for Kids – The Good Humor Man

Published when our son was 12

My Childhood – Freedom!

When I was a kid, back in what feels like the Mesozoic era, summer was always an excellent time to relax and be a kid.

I could get up in the morning, hop on my bike and ride to the local playground and spend the entire day there. The mornings would start with a bit of knock hockey. There were lots of options afterward. Playing on the swings was one. There I would go as high as I could only to jump off and roll! This was all a great warm-up for the Foursquare contest that would close out the morning.

After lunch (they’d cook hot dogs at the park served with Kool-Aid for about 25 cents) nearly every day there was a softball game. Loved that! Then, I could climb some trees picking crab apples to snack on before coming home for a cookout with some neighbors. If I were super lucky, the ice cream man would come around. I’d twist mom and dad’s arm to buy me a Fudgesicle. Then, meeting other kids at the ice cream truck, we’d organize an impromptu game of kick the can, hiding all over the neighborhood in people’s yards.

Those were the days, right?

Looking over the plans we have for our 12-year-old this summer, I was struck by just how much difference there is from when I was a kid.

My summer was characterized by:

  • No school
  • Unstructured time
  • Unsupervised time

His summers:

  • Continued focus on school with learning activities
  • Camps, clinics, trips – almost every moment is scheduled
  • Supervision everywhere

The summer day of my youth that I just outlined would be impossible for our son to recreate today.

Why is this the case?

Our child – Fully Scheduled!

First, our son has no time! Almost every day is spoken for! Daily and sometimes hourly commitments are on his calendar all summer long, Why? Because parents insist that their children will develop into nothing less than a superstar!  In our neighborhood, anything other than a packed schedule with a keen eye toward personal development is considered negligence!

Second, knock hockey, four square, and softball is boring and dull compared to other choices he has in his life. Computer games, texting, and snap chat on his iPhone have his, and apparently, all his peers’ full attention.  Those and YouTube videos by internet celebrities trump such silly pastimes as hide and seek and team sports. B-O-R-I-N-G.

Then, there is the danger factor. Hanging around strangers at the playground, eating crab apples, jumping off swings, and hiding in neighbors yards can be dangerous! “Danger, danger!” is a familiar cry in our hypersensitive world where riding a bike somewhere needs parental approval. The bike was the passport to freedom as a kid!

Does all of this point to some problem that needs to be solved? Maybe not. Time marches on, and things change. I get it.

I just miss the ice cream man.