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Let Kids Be Kids

by Peary Perry
Peary Perry

If it was up to me, which it isn’t, I’d declare that all kids get to be kids until they get to a certain age. That means they get to play outside, run around the house barefooted and act like children should act.

I am somewhat distressed by an article I read last week which states that more and more children are having to attend therapy sessions in order to learn how to deal with the excessive homework they are bringing home these days. Some of the parents complained that their eighth and ninth grade children were spending four to seven hours a night for six to seven days out of the week on homework.

Folks, that’s ridiculous.

What happened to kids being allowed to play and enjoy the experience of just being a kid?

I might have mentioned it, but here it is again, last year I was talking to a family member who kept giving her five year old daughter allergy pills every few hours or so. I asked her if her daughter was ever allowed to go outside and just play.

She looked at me as if I were an idiot and said… “You mean outside?”

I just nodded and said… “Yes, that’s what I meant. Outside, like in the yard, in the street….outside the house.”

She quickly advised me that there was not any way she would allow her daughter to venture out into the backyard, just too many things out there that are dangerous.

Now, you would think these people lived in some large populated crime drug and crime infested area of the country, but nope, they live in a rural area that doesn’t have a lot of bad things going on. I went on to explain to her that I think one of the prime reasons for kids getting so many allergies and other stuff is that parents don’t allow them to get out in the yard and play. When was the last time your kid had a scab? When I was a kid, we played. After school, on Saturdays during the summer, whenever there was any spare time. We got dirty, we went barefoot, we got cuts, bruises and scrapes then we went home, washed them off and stuck something called monkey-blood on them to get them to heal up. The most danger kids today can get is a sore thumb from playing too many video games and a fat rear end after only a few years.

Isn’t it a shame that we can’t just let kids act like kids while they’re young? Teachers tell me that they are under pressure to ‘teach to the test’ so their students will pass certain required levels. As a result there doesn’t seem to be any time left for play time, or family time, just study and more homework.

When was the last time you actually sat down at a dinner table at night with your kids and ate a meal? Not a holiday meal, just a average old weekday dinner? If we don’t talk to our kids at the dinner table, when do you talk to them? At soccer? At gymnastics? At piano practice? At judo or karate?

Lots of luck.

We are on a treadmill leading to destruction. By the time these kids grow up, they will have forgotten what it meant to have someone inquire about their day or express concern over some aspect of their lives. They are so focused on success that they grow old before their time and before our eyes. They are not being allowed to be children.

It’s as if we are fast forwarding them from babies to adults and skipping the part that allows the child to enjoy life in the sense that only a child can do at their age.

As adults we know the feeling that comes over us when we look back over the good times in our lives. We remember when we played baseball with our friends or rode our bicycles in the neighborhood. I can look back and remember friends and our conversations from many decades ago, they were a large part of my life. I think our kids today are missing out on those wonderful, but short years.

I don’t have a clue as to how we stop this vicious cycle, but I do know one thing.

Kids who aren’t allowed to be kids grow up to be frustrated adults.

Frustrated and angry…not a good combination.

© Peary Perry
Letters From North America

October 24, 2007 column
Syndicated weekly in 80 newspapers
Comments go to pperry@austin.rr.com

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