My kids, every once in a while, have conversations about what age they consider “old.” They have some interesting ideas about it. My middle daughter has decided you’re not old until you reach 72 years old. I have no idea why she thinks 71 is still young but 72 just isn’t. Neither Tim nor I are anywhere near our 70’s but I think we may have crossed over to officially old anyway. Lately we keep having conversations that start out with the words, “when we were kids….” I really did not expect to be saying things like that before my 72nd birthday but here I am in my mid-thirties talking about the good old days when I was young…..
Our latest conversation about “when we were kids” was about how different our social lives were than our children’s are today. “When we were kids”…. no one ever had play dates. Play was not something that was scheduled ahead of time and written on the calendar and worked out by our moms. Play was what we did when we walked outside and all the other neighborhood kids were out and we all just played together- spontaneously, without adult intervention, without constant adult supervision even! Sometimes a friend would ring the doorbell unexpectedly and we would invite them in and spend hours playing in our bedrooms or our basements. My mom knew my friends of course, but she did not set up my play time with them or run me to play dates or offer suggestions on what or how we should play.
My kids actually do have some neighborhood friends and they have had the experience of walking outside and joining in a game of hide and seek or tag in the front yards but just as often their play is scheduled ahead of time by me and their friend's moms. Play dates are not so bad really, but now that I have five children all of varying ages and all going in different directions I find myself starting to reminisce about the good old days. Wouldn’t it be nice, I sometimes think, if the kids just played without my intervention? Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just walk to a friend’s house down the street and knock on the door and spend hours having fun without any adult conversation preceding it to plan and work out the tiniest of details?
The world is not the same these days- we receive a neighborhood newsletter once a month that includes the number of “registered offenders” living nearby, my children are home schooled and don’t know many other children who live in our neighborhood within walking distance of our house, I don’t trust the influence of just any kid they might meet and am not comfortable with them playing at anyone’s house until I have met their parents and know what their values are.
I understand the value of play dates. I understand even the importance of them. Play dates are safe, they are convenient, they are fun- after all they are planned that way. But sometimes I think my children would really benefit from a little more spontaneous, kid-initiated, creative, not-necessarily-so-convenient fun without my influence or planning or involvement. Sometimes I just can’t help but remember the wonder and excitement of the good old days of my childhood, waaaaaayyyy back when…..