Kids Unplugged – rituals of childhood

In this modern world kids are constantly “plugged in” and neighborhood streets no longer echo with the laughter of children at play. They’re all locked up inside, staring at a video screen. These days, the only outdoor play the average kid gets is in organized sports. Whatever happened to just “play”?

OK, sure, I’m waxing nostalgic for the “good ole days” but really, it’s true. Childhood has lost some of its fun, its mystery and imagination have all but died. So too have things like lazy summer days of unstructured play.

On a hot, sticky summer afternoon, I did my part to resurrect childhood by dragging my 13 year old son to the local swimming hole. Note that I did not say, “swimming pool.” There was no chlorine involved here.

Just a deep, quiet spot in the river with a shaded, grassy bank where a few parents sat, watching their kids splashing around. Older kids and teens were jumping off a big rock into the deepest part of the pool and the sound of laughter was punctuated by splashes and gasps as hot kids jumped into the cold water.

Not one of the kids was texting – not even the teen girls – and no one had brought their PSP to the river.

The kids ranged from maybe 6 to 16, most in the 10 to 13 area. There were no arguments or fights, no scuffles – the kids took turns climbing the rock and jumping off. The next in line waited patiently as the one before swam out of the way. Good natured teasing egged on those who took too long to jump, and those who backed away without jumping were encouraged, not ridiculed.

If it sounds idyllic, it was. If it sounds unreal, well…yeah, I understand. I was there and I still can’t believe it.

So there I sat on the grassy bank, enjoying the dappled shade and cool breeze, watching my kid – unplugged.