When I was a little girl I remember playing outside most Saturdays. Whether it was with my doll and pram, cycling around the front yard on my bike or playing on the swings – I was outdoors. My sister and I were outside in the warm weather and cold. As we got older we were allowed to venture further afield – usually up the road on our bikes to our cousins and our granny. We played for hours in our Granny’s orchard, hidden away in our cubby house making ‘tea’ with an old kettle she gave us, or ‘dinners’ with an old pot, also donated by our Granny. When we got fed up with that we would go to the nearby cemetery and play hide and seek, usually hiding behind the old headstones. Then there were the days when we’d sneak off down the fields to a little stream and paddle for hours….freedom is what I remember from my childhood.
Freedom to go down the fields for hours or play in a cemetery or orchard for hours –freedom and imagination. When Wimbledon was on t.v. we were outside playing (very badly) tennis, pretending we were in the Wimbledon finals. If there was hurling on the t.v./radio we were outside cutting the legs off each other with hurleys pretending we were in an All-Ireland. If the Tour de France was on, we were to be found racing up and down the road – obviously traffic was not an issue in those days.
When I look at my own child and my friend’s children I can’t help but feel sad for all the things they are missing out on. Let’s face it most children don’t go out playing for hours anymore. The days for children going off on their bikes for a few hours are well and truly gone. And if they do go somewhere, they have to check in frequently as well as have the location tracker turned on on their smart phones…The world has changed drastically, and in this day and age it would be irresponsible of any parent to let their child out for a few hours without asking where they are going and for how long.
My son is going to be seventeen this month, and I’m more terrified now than I ever was when he was small. You see when they are children a parent has more control abut where they go, we drop them off and pick them up usually to another friend’s house. And we know they are safe. When they get to nearly being an adult though, the control is slowly draining away. They start to make their own decisions, pick their own friends and have another life that only includes their friends – no parents allowed! I like to think I have a good relationship with my son and that he keeps me updated on ‘important’ stuff, but I had this life once too and I’m sure that’s what makes it all the more frightening. Children never realise their parents were young once and probably did the same things that they did, used the same excuses and ultimately got up to the same mischief.
There are notable differences during my time growing up and my son’s. Social media, internet and smart phones are all wonderful advancements but the downside of these advancements are becoming evident everyday. I’ll be the first to admit that to have instant access to my child by text, phone call or social media is a great ease, however, I do wonder if we didn’t have this instant access would we be worse off..I have to think no, we wouldn’t, after all how did my mother survive without instant access to myself or my sister. There were no mobile phones with location trackers then, and so she had to trust that we were where we said we were and that we would be home by a certain time. And this trust was ultimately freedom, something that our children will never have – because we have taken it away from them.
The reasons may be to do with the dangers of the world around us but isn’t it so sad that our children will never really know the joy of running in fields or cycling like lunatics up and down a road that might see one car a day on it. Isn’t it sad to know that our children can’t play pretend games, that the amount of toys they have is sinful and that they get ‘bored’ after five minutes of playing with said toys. Freedom is something we can’t buy for our children, but maybe we could help them to get their imaginations back! Maybe by turning the t.v. or screens off for an hour and reading them a story, playing a game of Guess Who with them, making a jigsaw or building a cubby house with them…personal interaction doesn’t cost anything and the memories of doing these things will be something a child will have well into their adulthood!!