Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why don't kids today leave the goddamn house?

I've been thinking a lot about childhood lately, probably because Mike's kids are out of school and they're with us 4-5 days a week now.  They're wonderful children--really, really good kids--but I'm not gonna lie, I'm going out of my mind.

Things are so different from when I was a kid, and even from when my own children (now in their 30s) were little.  Kids today don't leave the house!  They don't go outside and play with friends; they play with friends on the video games.  From first thing in the morning until eleven o'clock at night sometimes, one kid is playing games on the TV in the living room and the other is on the computer in the kitchen.  Or vice versa.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of kids in our neighborhood, but who knows?  Maybe there are tons of them and they're not leaving the house, either.

Mike's kids never complain about being bored, but I can't stand looking at them rotting away in front of the screen.  Mike doesn't seem to mind; he's usually in front of a screen himself, or playing along with them.   So I guess it's my problem.  I feel bad for them;  I'm always thinking of fun things to do with them, but then I'm like, why the hell is it my job to make sure they're entertained?

See, this is where the role of the stepmother gets frustrating; they're not my kids, so I can't tell them what to do.  When my kids were little, I'd be like, "It's a beautiful day--go find some friends."  And if they were bored, I'd respond, "I'm not your entertainment committee!"   Which is exactly what I seem to be now.

When I was a kid living at 8 Lincoln Avenue in Albany, New York, we were ALWAYS outside--in all kinds of weather, but especially in the summer.  We'd be out looking for our friends right after breakfast, come home for lunch, and then we'd play until our parents yelled our names throughout the neighborhood calling us for dinner.  Then we'd be back out until the street lights went on.  We played kickball and badminton in the street, and jump rope and hopscotch on the sidewalk.  We'd walk to my grandmother's house, to the bowling alley, to Lozoff's Pharmacy to get a Freeze Pop, or we'd just walk around the block and through the neighborhood just to see what was up.  Half the time our mothers had no idea where the hell we were.

I understand that kids today don't have grandmothers within walking distance, but why don't they have outside toys like balls and croquet sets and jump ropes?  Why aren't they encouraged to go outside and explore?  (DON'T tell me the crime rate is any higher now than when I was a kid.) 

Maybe we loved playing outside so much because inside kind of sucked.  We had five kids and two parents yelling at each other all the time in a house that measured all of 1160 square feet; the house Mike and I live in is more than three times that size.  But another difference is, when we did play inside as kids, we spent a lot of time in our bedroom.  Kids today don't seem to play in their bedroom.

I've ranted a million times about the goddamn video games; this is just one more.  I just can't believe that it's a good thing for kids to be spending every waking minute playing that shit.  I can't believe that on some level they're not being desensitized to violence.  With every cell in my body, I think it's just wrong. 

But again, they're not my kids, so I can't say anything.  So I'll say it to you.  And if you're looking for me this summer, if I'm not outside myself, I'll be playing in my bedroom.  With the doors closed.

Thank you, God, for this little piece of heaven!

19 comments:

Linda and her Twaddle said...

I ask myself that same question. Especially when the day is sunny. My son sits on the Xbox and computer all the time. I force him to go for a walk when I walk the dog. He talks to all his friends on Skype. His social life is virtual. I used to worry but I think that I would have been just the same had the gadgets been around. I spent hours on end inside reading books, comics and watching cartoons. Still, for the first ten years of his growing up he spent a lot of time out and about with me and it was not until teenage years he did the Xbox and computer thing so much.

Now and then he will watch a movie on tv with my husband and I because he has had enough. I think if I felt his behaviour was not okay I would not be so easy going about it all. Being a nerd myself helps. I do get it.

Final note, one rule I have is no mindless eating when playing online etc. Breakfast, lunch and dinner at the table.

Kiwi Laurie said...

Amen Linda! If a kid doesn't have a skinned knee, stubbed toe, or scabs and band-aids on at least one body part during the summer, they are missing out on the best parts of childhood. ;-) Also,they need a collection of dead bugs, rocks, or other gross crap they find outside stuffed in their pockets. Side walk chalk, jump ropes, kickball, a run through the sprinkler...maybe catch a few lightning bugs, if they can find any these days! Happy memories...

R. Jacob said...

I understand where you are coming from but many things have changed. Neighborhoods are different. Signs posted saying don't do this or that. Communities are more transient. Neighbors are not as nice as they use to be. Don't play on the playground, don't play in the streets. Can't use that ball field. Fences everywhere. Sigh...
And down here, it is very very hot during the daytime. The streets are quiet. and remember the four TV channels?
xo

Mimi said...

Linda, I feel for you, I really do. It's a hard situation to be in, cos they're not your kids.
I remember the first summer when I decided I was not the entertainment committee for my 3, it was such a relief!
I agree with everything you've said here, but have no idea how it can be changed, other than by making inside suck! I feel sad when I think of all the fun we had playing outside, the freedom!
How many weeks to go?

Joe Lowers said...

great story and its very funny timing we just had a big talk about this tonight at my house with several comics

Anonymous said...

Linda,
Great post. My son is 14 now and spends most of his time in his bedroom or his music room. Yesterday he made plans and I dropped him and a buddy at Town Square and they hung out and walked around for several hours... Pretty exciting for me...
As for the video games, they ARE doing harm. I read the book Playstation Nation and it describes the Gaming Addiction to be similar to a Gambling Addiction. NOT COOL!
And it described how it really impairs them when they become adults. Failure to thrive kind of stuff.
So my son plays ZERO video games. But the easy part was that he never started. He has a few friends who aren't into them either, but the vast majority of his peers are hooked.
The book is over 10 years old... I wonder if it's been updated with more statistics. The games have only gotten better/worse...

But I do agree... When I was a kid I hated to be in the house, but my sister never left her room... Go figure!
-Stevenson Brooks

Anonymous said...

I agree, it seems like the only way the kids go outside is if they have something specific to do. I always like to read but I remember getting out of the house so mom wouldn't find work for me to do. :)
Cassie.

Mellodee said...

Today's kids are missing so much! Exploration, independence, imagination, adventure (going to Harry Potter World or Disney World is NOT a real adventure!), learning about diversity, developing judgment, understanding the concept of consequences. To say nothing of the physical benefits of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise! When I was a kid, I knew a couple of "fat" kids, but only a couple! The rest of us were skinny from all the running around we did!)

But hey, tomorrow's grown ups will be able play tennis on the Wii with just a flick of the wrist, or beat any alien attack, or vanquish vampires and zombies without leaving their own room. Yep, all the really important skills!

Parents need to stop being afraid to let their kids experience life! And the parents need to yank all those ridiculously expensive "toys" out of their children's hands and dump those kids outside every day with the admonition:

"Go play! Find a friend! Be a kid, for God's sake. You only get a few years to do this, make the most of them! Live!!!"

grrouchie serge said...

I grew up at the beginning of the Video Game Revolution and as such I obviously have not issues with them.

I play them (not nearly as much as I used to or as much as I want to) and I find them to be a great entertainment medium much akin to an interactive movie - maybe an extension of movies.

Now games are portable and they are on every device known to man. I'm waiting for the Angry Birds Toaster where you fling those little bastards as your toast is browning and if you mess up your toast burns, whatever.

Times have changed a ton, kids don't play outside any more, they play online with other kids.

If I were to accidentally have a kid I'm not sure what I'd do, they'd be wanting to play my games and I might have to buy another system/tv lol

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Wow! I've never had such a strong response to a post.

@ Linda: Good for you with the no mindless eating. I try as much as possible to eat dinner together as a family, and no one gets to leave the table until everyone is done eating. It took only one time for me to sit there alone (after making the goddamn meal) while everyone rushed back to their respective screens for me to enforce that rule.

@ Laurie: Remember catching lightning bugs and putting them in a jar. I have to wonder what kinds of memories kids will have from the killing screens.

@ RJacob: Granted, it is hot here during the daytime, but the evenings are glorious. And we live on a park! How about an after dinner game of pitch and catch?

@ Mimi: It is a hard situation. Five weeks to go, but only four for me since I'm leaving for Albany on 8/22. Still, it's going to be a long four weeks!

@ Joe: Thanks for commenting, my friend. I bet it was a lively conversation!

@ Stevenson: I am definitely going to look into Playstation Nation. Good for you for never getting your son started! It's a miracle he has friends who don't play either.

@ Cassie: Too funny about going out to escape doing work around the house--I did the same thing! Today, though, kids don't have chores. God forbid!

@ Mellodee: Exactly! Years ago, when video games were in their zygote stage, I went to an Arlo Guthrie concert. He joked that the U.S. government should make kids enter their social security number before they started playing; that way, they'd have a list of the best candidates to draft.

@ grrouchie: I love having a young guy's perspective represented here. Even more, I love how you say, "If I were to accidentally have a kid..."

Thanks for the thoughtful comments, everyone!

Anonymous said...

But it's triple digit temperatures outside! This is Vegas in July - the hottest month of the year! Why don't you take the kids someplace that has air conditioning? Free show tickets? The mall? Ice skating at Rancho Fiesta? Batman Matinee - LOL!

Debbie said...

I'm with you 100%. Kids today have no IMAGINATION. It's sad. I think the computer and video games ARE desensitizing kids to violence and they are not learning how to INTERACT with other HUMAN BEINGS. They are so protected and coddled and managed it's weird. When we wanted to play we went the fuck outside and played. Now kids have "play dates" where it is scheduled and organized. I think that is so freaking weird. There were tons of kids in my neighborhood constantly running around and playing outside. Today you NEVER see kids outside riding bikes or playing. I feel for you Linda ... I am so glad my step-kids are all grown up. I think I'd put a bullet in my head otherwise!

XOXO
Deb

Vegas Linda Lou said...

@ Anonymous: It's hot now, but the kids were still housebound even in the spring when the weather was beautiful. We do take them to shows; I'm a member of Fill-A-Seat.com (great service for locals. And Mike does take them to every movie that comes out. But that only lasts so long...

@ Debbie: Thankfully, Mike's son has a great imagination; he's always telling us stories in his head. We keep saying, "Write it down!" I've even suggested we have dedicated "creativity time." But the reality is, if I don't force the issue, nothing will get done.

lightning36 said...

This is just the electronic/computer/gaming generation. Yes, I would rather see my kids spend more time outside doing other things, but it is what it is.

Unfortunately, one of the worst side effects of this is a generation of overweight, out of shape kids. Seeing as so many adults are overweight, it makes me wonder what will happen to this younger generation as they get older.

Of course, in focusing on the physical aspects, I haven't even mentioned what electronic socialization might mean for communication in the future.

Fragrant Liar said...

Holy X-box, Batman, you are singing my song. I have been complaining about this for years! My grandkids do the same thing, and it's really frustrating. When I was a kid, my playground was the Arizona desert. My parents had no problem booting us outside in the 110-degree heat to hang out with the horny toads, lizards, and snakes. We made forts in the oleanders, played cars in the dirt, swung on a rusty swingset, and generally ran around getting dirty. But we were actively engaged with our environment and each other (even if we kids fought all the time). Kids today don't have a clue about that, and IMO, it's part of the problem with the acceptance of violence, bullying, and insensitivity in our culture. Wow. I'll get off my soapbox now.

Good post! Keep at the kids to get out of the TV set!

Taradharma said...

being on screen that many hours a day is simply not health for kids bodies and brains. That's not hyperbole either.

Even when it was hot outside, we played. In the creek, in the pool or hanging out under a tree in the shade. Anything was better than being at home.

I was a stepmother once, and I had the same concerns about the kid sitting in front of a computer ALL DAY LONG. Not a darned thing I could do about it. Like you, I retreated to my room, or left the house entirely. Good luck!

Vegas Linda Lou said...

@ Lightning36: You hit the nail on the head (pardon the cliche). We'd be wise to invest in anything related to diabetes detection and care.

@ Liar girl: I'm taking the kids to the library tomorrow for a movie. Whether they want to go or not...

@ Tara: And that is why I drink. :)

Barbara said...

This makes me sad. I think its actually affecting society that people don't have to interact face to face anymore. So many important skills are learned when friends play together: fairness, agreeing to disagree, arguing and forgiving, compassion, leadership, the list goes on.

My son had a Playstation but was not allowed to sit in front of it for hours at a time. He and his buddies rode bikes, played ball, and ran around the neighborhood. In the summer they had water balloon fights, went to the pool or the beach, etc.

Something with our society seems wrong....it seems like we are becoming less and less involved with each other and when it gets down to it - what the hell is life about if its not about people?

Vegas Linda Lou said...

No shit, Barbara.

Tonight at 7:30 I realized the 11-year-old was still in his pajamas. Draw your own conclusions.