Tell me I’m not the only little kid who, during a long summer car trip, would spend miles of rainy travel time pretending the fast-moving water droplets on the window were racing each other?
As I was driving in steady rain this past weekend along Interstate 75, I was reminded of this favorite summer travel pastime. And, yes, I was even tempted to oversee yet another “race” on my driver’s door window.
This memory prompted me to reminisce about other (somewhat mindless) activities that occupied much of my summer free time.
- For instance, I loved playing in the blast of water when fire hydrants were being flushed. Wherever this took place nearby, kids from throughout the neighborhood would rush to the scene to join in the fun. Obviously, this was a much simpler time…
- And how about running behind the mosquito spray truck? Okay, I truly didn’t join in this activity, but I certainly had friends who did. And, believe me, that explains a lot.
- But I did smear ketchup on my legs and lay by the side of the road with my bike on top of me, with the intent of alarming a passing motorist enough to stop. Apparently, it wasn’t worth the effort because no one even slowed down. That is, except for my father, who made sure I didn’t engage in this activity again…
- Also etched in my mind are the box hockey games during summer day camp at Dixieland Elementary. I don’t believe I’ve seen this game since, but it was certainly a favorite back in the day. I hope kids somewhere are still enjoying this one!
- A lifetime of summer vacations in the mountains hold many fond memories, with firefly catching topping the list. How fun (and easy!) it was to catch these bugs in a mason jar, punch holes in the lid and watch them glow until I fell asleep. I’m still fascinated by these creatures.
Be An Outsider!
Florida summers were different in the 60s and early 70s. Even though the sweltering weather seems to be unchanged, the expectations for kids’ whereabouts were certainly not the same in those days. Children were expected to play outside. Period. Because of that, we figured out how to not just survive, but to have fun!
My neighboring gang of friends that lived in the Indian trail streets of Beacon Hill (a neighborhood, by the way, which has experienced a marvelous restoration by the next generation), could make a game out of almost anything. And we had to. Remember, we were banished from our homes, for the most part.
- Four-square was a staple. How fun it’s been to resurrect this game over the past few summers at the beach, with a tennis ball on the hard-packed sand.
- My friend Jack and I invented the “grounder game,” where we’d stand 15-or-so yards apart and throw a baseball grounder to each other. The object was to field the ball and throw it to the other person in a certain number of seconds. This was great fun until Jack grew so strong that the impact of his thrown ball in my glove was bruising my fingers.
- So, then it was on to building a make-shift golf chipping course in my front and back yard – and, of course, using the yards of neighbors to lengthen the shots. The “holes” were certain trees, sections of fence, bushes, etc. As if that wasn’t enough, my dad dug a huge hole in the backyard and filled it with white sand for bunker practice. My lack of prowess today from the sand is certainly no fault of my father’s!
- By mid-afternoon, all the neighborhood friends were ready to cool off with a competitive game of water baseball. What, no pool at any of our houses? That was no problem because we simply found the nearest house where the owner would agree to let us hop in and play. Liability? Probably never considered in that day – by either party.
- Before heading inside for the evening, I would usually retreat to our back patio. It was on this very site that I first learned to spit watermelon seeds. So, naturally, this also had to develop into a contest with my family and friends. Though I’ve never spit competitively, I always enjoyed trying to hit the oak tree just off the edge of the pavement. Never was much good at it. And now, with the advent of the seedless melon, my grandkids will likely never know the fun of projecting those big black seeds toward a target.
May Your Kids Be…Kids!
So, what’s the point of this summer reminiscing? There are several –
- Parents, encourage your kids to be kids (within reason!). As Tom Stoppard wrote in The Coast of Utopia, “Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up. But a child’s purpose is to be a child.”
- Parents, encourage exploration and imagination. And it doesn’t all have to be discovered on an ipad! Outside, through inquisitive play, children can see much of God’s marvelous creation. You know, the “outside all day” plan wasn’t a bad gig after all. I really did survive childhood without technology. And, as I’ve mentioned, we did way more than just survive.
- Parents, slow down, and encourage your kids to enjoy summer’s pace. Importantly, make sure it’s a different pace than the tempo of the school year. If we’re not careful, our summers can race by at high velocity. The activities may be different, but the speed may be that of the other nine months. Making it different will take intentionality on your part. Try it, you might like it!
- Parents, it’s possible for your children to find ways to entertain themselves that don’t cost money. That takes us back to the exploration/imagination concept. Encourage them to invent games. Have them make do with the stuff already around your house. You’ll be amazed at what fun they can have. Kudos to my friend Fred Wiechmann for being the world’s best at helping kids discover fascination with the most common of objects – and then pointing them to the Creator. You rock, Fred! Of course, dear parent, you’ll have to give them time to be this kind of child.
- Finally, parents, unplug your kids – for a season. Now, I’m not suggesting in this point (nor the others) that we return to Little House On The Prairie days. That will never happen and I don’t think it’s right to give up technological benefits cold turkey. Technology has really enriched our lives in many productive ways. And, I join you in the struggle of deciding what’s enough and what’s just too much.
For instance, I recently returned from a week in the mountains with my iPhone, iPad and laptop in tow. People were able to text, call or email at will. And I obliged, instantly. Not only that, I have upgraded my modem and router at the mountain house to reach faster levels of connectivity. And I’m getting ready to add a Roku to stream movies from almost any source.
So, kids, parents, and Steve – for a season – catch fireflies, play the grounder game, and, by all means, race your rain drops…but DO NOT…I repeat…DO NOT… run behind the mosquito spray truck!
Mr. Steve Wilson is the Director of Advancement at Lakeland Christian School. To reach Steve, you may email him at Swilson@lcsonline.org.