Philadelphia Metropolis

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Missing Hopscotch

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By Jamila Harris1374710888_a5ddca9961.jpg

I opened up my window and smelled the summer breeze. I see the trees turning green, and the weather feels great; perfect for the beach. All this reminds me of my childhood days of summer. There is one problem however. I do not hear any children outside my window playing. My neighborhood of Parkside is filled with kids. Yet, besides the birds all I hear is silence.

Where did everyone go?

Then I thought about how I, a mother of four, do not see my own children go out and play. I had managed to provide all the electronic devices to keep them content in their rooms. That was not my intent. Sure it's perfect for the winter, but what is summer with no one on the streets?

My 14 year old, who is tall and athletic would much rather play PlayStation basketball all day and night than to go out to an actual basketball court and put in the physical work.

My 17 year old does not mind staying in the house as long as he has his smart phone. I realized I am asking a question about the children when I had contributed to the problem of the silence in the streets. Is it any wonder our children are lazy, and more than ever before, suffering from obesity and diabetes?

This thought makes me want to reminiscence with my children and remind them how important it is to go out and move. I remember when my friends and I were young, we got up darn near at the break of dawn to put our clothes on and run outside. Then we would remain out there until after dinner time or until the streetlights came on. Even then we were reluctant to go inside, so most of us ended up being punished by our parents for coming home way after the light of day had faded.

There was so much to do outside; so many games to play. We would start with a game of Double Dutch; a rope game that was exclusively for the girls. Of course, the boys would always try to interrupt us but we would whip them with the rope. Once our game of rope was over, we would play kickball or softball and this included the boys. After kickball was over it would be around noon and we gathered our change to get some ice cream from the truck and part briefly to eat our lunches at home.  We could afford to not get worried about gaining weight because we remained active all day. After lunch break the girls would go back to themselves to play a game of jacks or hopscotch. You could find a hopscotch board written in chalk with the number one thru twelve in square blocks on almost every street corner back then. These days I see none. Such a shame. Back to my childhood days, it seemed we always excluded the boys when we first came out. I don't know why, maybe we had to warm up to them again or maybe we thought boys were stupid at that age. It never seemed to bother the boys because as always they would make sure they tried their best to sabotage any girl's-only game. Then it would be time to play some Hot, Bread, and Butter. A game where someone hides a stick or any object and when they called out "hot, bread, and butter come and get your supper" We all would race to find it while we were told  in a sing-song manner that we are getting "HOOOOOTTTTTTT" meaning  close to the object or "COLD" far from the hiding place. As the dark starts to fall it was always time for hide and seek, which meant put your feet in to have them counted by singing numerous rhyming songs and the last person whose foot was still in had to do the finding before we reached base. Finally as the dark hit but before the streetlights came on we would end with "Truth, Dare, or Consequences", where you were challenged to kiss someone, confess something, bare your soul, or deal with a harsh punishment; normally a beat down from everyone playing.

How I miss those days. It kept the neighborhood close, it kept us fit, and of course it made us tired by the end of the day, which was great for our parents. Today I am quite certain that every game we would play outdoors is somehow formatted to a computer screen, or game console.

As long as we keep our children glued to their computers, PlayStations, TV's and iPhones there will always be an odd silence to our neighborhoods.

I have tried to attack this problem in my own household. I failed miserably because my children acted as if they were incarcerated without their phones, PlayStation, and Xbox. I got so tired of their gloom and complaints I was more than happy to give everything back. It seemed the damage had been done. They already had been programmed. Besides, if they did go outside, who would they play with? All their friends are indoors.

As to myself, I remain optimistic -- and I still search for a Hopscotch board to jump.

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