A: Some folks are offended by anything. How are you going to have an attitude when asked about the ink dragon covering your entire arm? That’s like getting incensed when someone inquires about your bumper stickers. You put them there for people to notice!
Don’t get me wrong: I’d be perturbed if I had an ex-husband’s name splayed across the back of my neck, and you quizzed me about it. But soon after the spousal breakup, I’d be prepared with a self-deprecating response or outlandish story. When one displays body art, questions should be expected. Perhaps the prolonged needle exposure in the tattoo parlor has made some a tad sensitive.
Q: I’m tired of kids complaining of being bored over summer vacation. I don’t know a parent alive that doesn’t hear this. When we were little, we found or made up things to do. Children don’t use their imaginations or go outside. What do you think of this?
A: I think it’s time for a parental revolution. The average American boy or girl spends only four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day but squanders fifty-three hours a week in front of an electronic screen. Our kids are bored because we’ve neglected something essential to their well-being, health, and development: Connection to the natural world. They are deficient in elemental things. Like us, they need to get outside to restore body, mind, and soul.
Other factors are our hurried, over-scheduled lifestyles; our deep fear that it’s not safe to let kids play outside by themselves; and the well-meaning but misguided belief that we’re denying them opportunities if we don’t enroll them in everything. This kind of thinking damages the entire family. Will enough parents begin the revolution in their own homes?
Eve Ross, a mother of two in North Carolina, decided to take a stand.
“My husband and I have been swimming against the current for the past 13 years,” she says in an article on CNN.com. “We heavily promote sitting outside under the trees and watching the leaves fall, making up games, painting, and reading. I can’t begin to tell you how viciously we were attacked by other parents telling us how sorry they felt for our children because they were so deprived and would be so behind the other kids as they grew up…Turns out just the opposite is true. Our kids are grounded, thoughtful, excellent problem-solvers, incredibly creative, extremely well read, and never bored. They are calm, meditative, and most importantly, happy.”
Childhood should be a time of freedom, spontaneity, and fresh air. Third grade wouldn’t have been nearly as nice without the time I spent perched high up in a magnolia tree. My middle school years were made bearable thanks to all the daydreaming done in our backyard hammock. (And I bet my neighborhood had far more crime than yours does now.) By today’s standards I was thrown to the wolves and allowed to run with them, and for that I am grateful.
Two scenes come to mind from my experience working at a private school. First was the ninth-grader who plopped down in my office to whine that her personal trainer was 10 minutes late.
That was ridiculous, but the situation viewed through my window was more telling. A five-year-old reached for her father’s hand as they walked to their car in the parking lot. He was busy texting and didn’t notice his little girl trying to hold his hand. She tried twice more before giving up.
Our children reflect our parenting. If we want them to change, we’ll have to work on ourselves first.
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Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at thecrackerqueen.com.