I shared a car ride with some friends the other day, and after a while, talk turned to the over-use of technology by our respective offspring. There was the usual comment that kids are using/taking in too much screen time followed by the expected sigh of collective despair upon deciding there was not much we could do about it.
But are we truly resigned to this fate of a plugged-in existence?
From my veranda, where I sit gazing out across the landscape this afternoon, watching passer-bys that make their way, rushing from one town to another; where I am also glimpsing the late-afternoon light descending on the peaks of leafy, green trees across the burgeoning potato fields...and where I sit listening to the boats on the river -- from this same veranda, I can hear the tap, tap, tap of wood on wood.
Two little girls are framing a tree-house where the red maples arch and enclose our country lane, welcoming visitors to our home. They drag boards and buckets and rope, making several trips to finally meet their quota of useful items. I can hear one daughter discussing nails with her father while the other one stays bent on the task at hand.
The conversation is light and cheerful.
Whoever of us has resigned themselves into believing that it is no longer possible for children to be lured from the almost magnetic-like draw of the electronic screen, where they sit in dark rooms on couches like lifeless lumps: whoever ascribes to this system of thought... has not passed a summer afternoon at our rural homestead.
If we want to recapture a bygone era, a time when life was simpler and options were not so vast, we have to fashion that world again ourselves.
Have we ourselves ever fallen victim to the allure that devices and screens provide? I lie if I fail to answer in the affirmative. Of course, our family battles the daily urge to reach for our screens, the lifeline connecting the isolated to the seemingly infinite. But every once in a while, there is something greater that entices.
This very afternoon, it was first the promise of the river. Cool waters lapping around ankles, creating ripples that enclosed in circular form. Laughing voices eager to see who could get to the raft first. The coming-togetherness that surrounds a project: carrying a kayak, supporting one another in swimming ventures, setting up the afternoon's festivities, making up whatever games they are about to play. And when tiring of the water, it was the land that drew everyone back. The yard of lush grass ready for a quick game of catch, the tree-house alongside the driveway, the chair waiting on the deck, ready for one to curl up with a good book.
This is what people do when they are not staring at a screen.
If we want to recapture a bygone era, a time when life was simpler and options were not so vast, we have to fashion that world again ourselves. No amount of nagging or pleading will make a child decide to embrace nature. No lectures or sermons or speech can truly capture the essence of the sunlight on the water, the sound of voices at play or the feel of the breeze in your hair. Children have to experience it for themselves and see what the great outdoors has to offer them. And we as parents have a responsibility to provide the opportunities for this to happen, not just demand that children "get outside" or submit to the proposition that it's a lost cause.
Because, quite simply, it's not.
Children will 'turn-off' technology and 'tune-in' to the great outdoors, if that is the option given to them. And they can do so with joy, not resigned reluctance. With pure, unadulterated joy. So rather than grieving the good old days that we use to know, let's recreate them. Making the present truly a gift by seeing the possibilities as endless rather than focusing on the illusion of what's been lost.
Time to get out and enjoy the sunshine.
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