When I Was A Kid…

Children really do live in our neighborhood, but you wouldn’t know it this summer. Every day is quiet. No one’s out riding bikes or playing kick the can or running a lemonade stand. I drove past the municipal pool yesterday and it wasn’t very busy, either.

Where did all the children go? It’s like the plot of a Mary Higgins-Clark novel. Have they all been turned into TV-watching, Wii-playing, Cheetoes-eating zombies?

I sit outside on the porch every evening and the only person I usually see is the mentally challenged man from the group home at the end of our street who walks up and down the sidewalk drinking Coke or Mountain Dew, hour after hour, stopping to clap and laugh sometimes when he sees…well…I’m not really sure. But whatever it is makes him darn happy.

Allow me to be an reminiscing old bitty for a moment.

When I was a kid, I spent most of the summer outside, mostly because I wanted to, but sometimes because Mom kicked me out of the house (especially if I used the “b” word – bored). “Go play!” she’d say pushing open the screen door and locking it behind me.

If no friends were around and I was stuck playing with my little brother, we’d hit the sandbox or the swing set and talk about what we wanted to be when we grew up. But usually our friends’ mothers had kicked them out of the house, too, and together we’d find all kinds of things to do.

We’d catch butterflies and bugs and put them in Mason jars with holes poked in the lids with branches and leaves stuffed inside. If enough kids were around, we’d organize a kickball or softball game. Sometimes we’d set up the badminton net or a croquet course. On really hot days, we’d fill big galvanized pots with water and “swim,” or hook up the sprinkler and run through it until we were shriveled like prunes.

No matter where I was in the neighborhood, I always knew when it was time to go home. No one’s dad had a whistle like my dads. Snappy sharp and piercing like a drill sergeant’s, Dad’s whistle all business. My call home was three whistles because I was the third child, and my brother was four whistles. It didn’t matter what we were doing, if we heard our whistle we were to come right home. No “Just five more minutes?” or “Do I have to?” but NOW, as in “Drop everything this very second. It’s time for dinner or bed.”

I don’t hear whistles like that in my neighborhood. I don’t even hear parents calling their children home. That is, when there are children outside. I assume they use cell phones now.

It’s a shame. I miss the laughter of kids playing around here. Sure, I’ve got Mr. Happy Clapper, but it’s not the same.

Have all neighborhoods become void of games and bikes and butterfly collectors? Do kids run through sprinklers anymore? If this is the case, Claire and I have to have a serious talk. I’m buying the kid a sprinkler and a galvanized pot, a croquet set and badminton birdies. We’re gonna have fun outside, gosh darn it, just like when I was a kid.

5 thoughts on “When I Was A Kid…

  1. In my neighborhood in the summer, it LOOKS like there are no kids… but if mine go up to the ballfield behind the house with a ball and bat and start playing, within 15 minutes kids start showing up little by little, wanting to join the game. It’s interesting. I wonder where they are? Oh, and $5 for a slip and slide is about as much entertainment per dollar as you can find anywhere on the planet, lol. love, V

  2. Ahhhhh….I remember those days! In my neighborhood we played double dutch jump rope, which I was really good at, hide and seek, tag, ride our bikes all doors on the the street were open to the kids because everyone on our street had some so we were always in and out of each others houses. On hot days one of the adults would open a fire hydrant and we would cool off that way until the police would come by and make us stop. Ahhhh the good old 70’s!
    Anyway we have kids on our street now and surprisingly enough they are always outside riding their bikes and playing. It makes me smile when I see them outside enjoying the fresh air and not turning into video game junkies.

  3. Oh my gosh this is sooo true. I wonder about it all the time. My husband and I have already resolved NOT to put a tv or video game station or computer in our son’s room. We don’t even have satellite or cable tv. We do have an antennae. My son is almost 4 and we watch a lot of PBS! 🙂 We try to spend time outside every day. But I rarely if ever see kids out playing. Not like in my day when I could play all day long outside. I knew that when I heard my mom call Nata-leeeeeeeeeee-ya, it was time to go!
    On another note I was so excited to see your site. Please, if you have time check out my blog. I just started it, I’m at the beginning of my journey! You are such an inspiration.

  4. You’ll be happy to know that my neighborhood kids gather almost nightly for what they call “Dark Tag.” They beleive they invented this game, but it’s really the same thing my siblings and friends and I knew as “Hide and Go Seek.”
    Jake is at this very moment, sporting 5 new stitches just below his left knee because he was determined to make it to base without being caught 2 nights ago. He impaled his leg on a stump in the process. I was not very amused by the trip to the ER, but Jake thought it was cool to see his leg bone. He also paid close attention to the PA’s stitching technique and is now certain that he could do it himself if he needed to in a pinch. That’s my boy. Lemons to lemonade, my friend.

  5. We’re an outdoorsy group here. My youngest son has been battling pneumonia for much of this summer and hasn’t had the energy he likes for going outside and playing (we know he’s feeling better now because the swing set is getting a lot of use). In my neighborhood there’s always kids out and about (several of them have grown up, so sometimes it feels like there’s fewer kids around here). It’s quite lovely tho to hear the sounds of children playing outside. 🙂

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