Today I took a walk with my dog Ahna. We lost her older sister last week, so we have been trying to give her a little more attention. What a glorious fall afternoon it was. It was warm, but not too hot. There was a very gentle breeze. The sun was shining through the autumn leaves and a few clouds in the sky hinted at the dreary days to come. I expected to see much activity. And, we did. Two men were cutting there grass. One an older man pushed the mower back and forth in even strips. the other, a much younger man, rode his mower while listening to something from his ear buds, seemingly oblivious to the world around him. Another man was trimming shrubs and cutting them up for garbage bags, while a fourth man determinedly push a spreader across his lawn, eager for spring to bring bright green grass. We smiled and waved as we passed our neighbors, but something was amiss.
We rounded the corner and kept going. Here a woman was taking advantage of the beautiful day to paint some furniture in her driveway. This was probably the last really nice weekend of fall we agreed. Further on a man was repairing his driveway. Heading for home we heard the sounds of a table saw intermingle with the lawn mowers and leaf vacuums. A neighbor was cutting wood for a home improvement project on his to do list.
We did see a lot of people and heard many sounds. However, I didn't hear or see any signs of children. There were no screams, shots, or laughter. No children playing tag or riding bicycles. No children at all.
Now my little town is a quaint, historic suburb that prides itself on being a great "family" town. We are not an active adult community. I know children live here. I saw them on Halloween, and I see them every morning waiting for the school bus. Drive by a soccer field and they are packed full with children.
Why were all the driveway basketball hoops silent with no balls, no foul shots, no accusations of fouls made or shots missed? Why did all the swings sit still except for a gentle push by a random breeze? Why were the elaborate backyard play structures empty, dead with no children's imagination to breathe life into them as castles, forts, and rocket ships? Where were all the children?
Were they all indoors with electronics? Were they at adult organized activities like soccer, scouts, or ta-kwan-do?
Our society grows and thrives based on the imaginations and dreams of its children. Children need free, unstructured time to discover their world, their NATURAL world, outside. They need to be told to go outside and play. Let them wonder at the leaves changing color. Let them skin their knees and realize how cool a scab is. Let them get in fights with each other and learn how to resolve petty arguments.
Parents, adults, please let our children play. For our future is the future they are imagining now.