Philadelphia Metropolis


Where Did the Outside Go?

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By Lynda C. Wharton

I came home a couple of days ago to find my 13-year-old daughter and my 11-year
-old son just lying around in our family room. I asked them was something
wrong? Everybody looked so melancholy. As any parent has heard a million times
they gave a two-word response: "I'm bored." I joked with them about how I was
sure they could keep themselves busy if they cleaned their rooms. Cleaning up
could possibly take all day. My daughter cringed and looked away (you don't
want to see her room), but, my son said: "Awww, mom. My room is good." Well, I
said, its 75 degrees outside. The sun is high, the humidity is low, and it's a
beautiful day. He still looked bummed. Apparently, he couldn't figure out if he
had left some attachment to one of their game systems at their grandmother's
house or lost it at ours.

Even though we spend quite a bit of time outdoors and the children are often
encouraged to go out and play, my children were sitting in the house looking
for some missing component. Bikes, skateboards, ripsticks, skates, tennis
racquets, you name it is littering my garage and still my
children were inside?
It made me ask the question: where did the outside go? It's a huge, vast place
just teeming with wonder and excitement and all sorts of curiosities, yet it
seems to be disappearing a little every time a new gadget is released and every
time we purchase one. I'm all for new technology, but, I remember when the
outside was all the entertainment a kid needed.

I look back with fondness at being a kid,  growing up in West Philly. I can remember my sisters and me washing out
the old mason jars our great-grandmother sent us homemade jam in and punching
holes in the tin lids. We would hang off of the side of our porch, one hand
holding on for our lives, the other holding on to our jars. We would catch
bumble bees from a bush that belonged to our neighbors. We would get enough to
make the buzzing really audible and then release them and do it again. When
evening fell, we'd take the same jars wash them out again and catch lightning
bugs. We'd make ourselves little lanterns and then we'd release them, too. My
dad always taught us never to keep anything living captured too long and so
most of our bugs went on to live another day. The fun wasn't in the keeping
them anyway. It was in the catching part. We picked up ants and would let them
crawl around in our hands and rather than staring at a screen we actually

Doesn't a good old fashioned game of tag still exist? How about hide and seek? I have
so many memories of running up and down the street playing countless games of
red light, green light. If we got bored with that we could always get a good
game of freeze tag going, or truth or dare. When the day was coming to an end
all the kids on the block would sit on our steps eating freeze pops or popcorn
or whatever snack my mother came up with. We spent just about every waking
moment of every day of the summer outside, so why don't they?

I must admit after some thought, it's really our fault isn't it? Yes, of course,
just like some adults, some kids are just lazy and would rather lie around in
their rooms, even if they were empty and dark. For the most part though, kids
are generally a product of their environment. Truth be told, our seven year
olds don't have jobs. So, their parents or grandparents are paying for these gadgets
for them. Sad to say,  half of it
is our own fascination. After all, these things are new to us, right? Of
course, that is no excuse. Neither is the part where we've worked all day. We
are tired and this game system is keeping the kids quiet. Or we are tired and
don't feel the urge to go outside ourselves. We should though. Fresh air and
exercise is good for everyone. If we exercised more we'd have more energy to
exercise even more. We'd be more alert at work. We would increase our endurance
physically and mentally. As for the fascination of the new toys, play with them
after the little ones are sleeping. If you let them use them, put both
yourselves and your children on a time restraint. Then put down that controller
and really go play.




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