I don’t know if you’ve read it or not, but there’s an article floating around about 10 ways to give your kids a 1970s summer. Knowing what I know about my growing up in the 80s and how much times have changed, I have little hope for my kids to experience a genuinely 1980s summer, but I will give them what I can.
At my son’s age, I was playing in the backyard on my grandparents 4 acres, relatively unsupervised. At my daughter’s age, I was off on my bike for hours on end. No cell phones, no checking in every half hour. Honestly, I’m not sure that anyone really knew where I was half of the time. As a kid, it was bliss. We knew all of our neighbors (not that there were that many) and all of our neighbors knew us. We didn’t think twice about knocking on a door to ask for something to drink (though, looking back, we probably annoyed the dickens out of some of our poor neighbors) and certainly didn’t blink at the thought of taking food or candy if it was offered. We played in the street until dark, walked to the convenience store nearly a mile away and never felt unsafe.
Fast forward 30-something years and I worry about my kid riding her bike around the block. Maybe it was the ignorance of the 80s that was my bliss for us and maybe things were really just as scary as they are now and we simply didn’t know. I can’t turn my kids loose outside for hours on end without worrying. I can’t let my daughter take off and ride her bike the mile to her friend’s house. I would never, ever be ok with my kid knocking on anyone’s door that wasn’t one of our immediate neighbors. I can’t give my kids all of my 1980’s childhood, but I can give them some of it.
I spent a lot – A LOT – of time outside as a kid. We had cats, dogs, chickens, ducks, rabbits and a host of other animals. Living in a subdivision inside the city means we can’t have those critters running around in our own backyard, but we can have them at grandma’s. My childhood home has become my children’s second home and I love it. At grandma’s now, we have chickens and a few ducks. As far as the chickens and ducks, my dad takes care of the ducks (who are still pretty young right now, despite their size) and my son helps my grandma take care of the chickens (ridiculously easy!). My kids will know what it’s like to have pets beyond dogs and cats, they will know what it is round up loose chickens, gather eggs, watch baby chicks grow and probably get pecked for rough handling a time or two.
Time outside with the chickens and ducks mean less screen time instead of more, it means fresher food instead of more processed food and it means life lessons (coyotes can be a bit of a problem). Chickens are also amazingly cuddly and sweet (as long as you aren’t squishing them) and give lots of options as far as summer learning.
I spent a lot of my childhood exploring. I explored the yard, I explored the neighborhood, I explored the woods. I’m trying to teach my kids to explore their world, even when it doesn’t look like there’s anything to find. We’ve lived in the same house for 10 years, and until this spring, I had no idea this creek was in the wood behind our house. As it turns out, it’s an excellent place for my son to dig and my daughter to find pretty rocks and flowers. It’s also a great spot to teach the kids about poison ivy, ticks and mosquitoes (oh the perils of enjoying nature!) Science is one of my favorite things to share with the kids and this place lends itself to an exponential number of summer lessons.
One of the things I want my kids to learn is that there is beauty in everything. While 2014 may look nothing like 1984, and the world may look like a lot darker place now than it did then, there is still beauty everywhere and in everything. There can be just as much beauty in a 2014 summer as I had growing up. Even though times have changed, I will give my kids what I can – even if that’s just chickens, trees and berries.