I never thought of myself as an old fogie, but I guess, based on my views of certain things in this world that I am becoming one.
Who'd have every thought someone who drove around Sugarhouse Park in my 1966 Mustang looking for girls and rockin' to the likes of Led Zeppelin on my 8-track in the late 1960's would ever be out of step with "what's goin' on."
But it looks like I am, because my idea of what childhood should be is sure different from what I am seeing parents with teenagers on down to two-year-olds doing with their kids nowadays.
Remember when you were a kid and you got out of school for the summer:there was this great feeling of freedom; no more homework or regimentation for three months. In the next few weeks, depending on our age, we spent endless time reading comic books or science fiction/kids novels, riding our bike around with our friends, playing board games on a cool neighborhood patio with our buddies or we laid in the grass in our parents yard just looking at the sky, making people and characters out of the cloud formations with our imaginations.
It's really different today. So many parents complain about their kids laying around the house either watching cable or playing video games. But to me that's just another form of recreation similar to what we did. What concerns me much more, in fact worries me, are overscheduled kids. I see it all over the place.
Recently, a friend of mine who works as a social worker in a big school district along the Wasatch Front sent me an article written by a therapist who asks the question "When did childhood turn into a rat race?"
Remember that term. I think it originated in the 1950's to describe the competition in the corporate world. Today the competition for being the best at everything you can be begins at one or two years of age, not when you get out of college.
The article, writen by William Doherty, a family therapist, questions the validity of todays dog eat dog society moving down into the youth ranks. He says that he sees kids all the time that are over scheduled. One girl he met was tightly regimented from 5 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. daily and she admitted to being tired all the time. Gee I wonder why?
He says he has run into kids who told their therapists that they would like a little time off of music lessons, athletic camps, swimming lessons, ballet, etc. to "play."
It seems to me that this is a real problem, because my favorite part of my childhood and teenage years had nothing to do with organized athletics or activities, even though I was heavily involved in them at times. My favorite memories have to do with sleeping out with my friends on my parents back lawn, riding our bikes to the movie house in downtown Murray on hot summer afternoons and hanging around with my friends, with all our cars parked at the Frostop on 60th South and State, and sipping on a root beer and eating fries.
I know...I know...things are different now. Sleeping out in the back yard has become a dangerous thing with all the human predators that are running around, riding a bike to the movie house would only end badly with my bike being stolen and hanging around at the local drive in can only result in drug use. The point I am making here has nothing to do with what kids do on their own; whatever it is it can conform to the problems and standards of today. It has to do with letting kids be kids; it has to do with not scheduling them so tightly that they can't breath. It has to do with being a little laid back instead of worrying whether a kid will throw enough balls by the time he is 16 so he can be the starting pitcher on the baseball team or playing enough recitals that she can get into a particular music school when she is 16.
Doherty says that the propensity to schedule kids so tight, and to be so concerned about the competition they will face when they are adults, is affecting many of them and their families adversely. We used to worry about kids watching too much television; maybe we should worry more about all the organizations and activities they are involved with instead.
And when a kid rebels and doesn't want to do all this stuff we expect him to do we think there is something wrong with him. Maybe, instead, it is that something is wrong with us and our overwroght society.
We as Americans always tend to overdo things. We worry so much about our kids and ourselves being able to be the best and competing, that we sometimes forget that the best parts of the world we live in have nothing to do with those kinds of things.
This afternoon I went home for lunch. When I walked out to my car to return to the office, I looked around my yard at the cool green lawn and into the sky with those brilliant white fluffy clouds and I wanted to take my tie off, change into cutoffs and just lay there on the lawn and make elephants and funny faces out of the puffy moisture that was hanging in the vast blueness. I couldn't do that because I have responsibilities, I am a grown up.
But kids, they should be able to do that for the little while they can.