Ahhh, the summer days are here. Depending on what stage of life you are in and how many children you have that “Ahhh” is either hair pulling and strained or smiling and relaxed. To aid ourselves in the latter “ahhh” we need to have a game plan. Despite what you might read on every other blog on the internet I’m not sure that going unplugged for the summer is the answer though. You must kinda agree because the fact that you are reading this means that you are plugged in right now.
Growing up I learned a lot about benefits and drawbacks of unplugged summers. Our house was unplugged to the extreme. Actually, for some time we couldn’t plug things in even if we wanted to. There were no outlets in the walls. Why would you need outlets if you had no electricity? But soon we made a feeble attempt to get caught up with the times and my dad, who ironically was an electrician, wired our house and bought a generator so we could ditch the gas lanterns at night.
When summer hit we were reminded of the rule, “No turning on the generator during the day.” Of course, as soon as we got a TV we would sneak and turn on the generator the second my mom would leave us alone. Who knows what we watched with 5 channels in the middle of the day. The Reading Rainbow? Days of Our Lives? Once we got a computer it was my brother breaking the rules so he could play Kings Quest I, II, and III. Nerd. We certainly weren’t fooling my mom though. She knew exactly what was going on when she saw someone sprinting from the generator shed as she drove down the road toward home.
If we owned a VCR maybe that would have made things more exciting, but we only rented one on special occasions from the grocery store. Man, I’m making it sound like I’m a very old person. Nope, I was born in the late 70’s to parents who wanted to live like it was the 20’s. We didn’t even have a clock in our house though surely battery run clocks existed at that time? We did have a phone though and I would call a number several times a day where an electronic voice on the other end would tell me what time it was. I still remember that number 30 years later. Yes, I just called it out of curiosity…. sorry to the person I just crank called:)
I must say, I had a pretty fun childhood and most of it was due to being forced into creativity so I didn’t die from boredom. Not only were we unplugged but we also were unfriended before Facebook ever existed. You see, our nearest friends lived miles away. There were no houses in sight from our front yard so there were certainly no block parties or running across the street to see if Susie could play. I know, what could have possibly been so much fun about my childhood? Even I’m feeling sorry for myself reading this.
Well… rope swings, bike rides, lizard hunts, water fights, tree house building, trips to the moon (AKA a huge boulder on the hill), Pinon nut picking, scavenger hunts, kick the can, blanket forts, backyard campouts and more.
Our imaginations were stretched to the limits out of necessity. Even the broken down station wagon became our own personal Millennium Falcon. My brothers tried to convince me that there were no girls in Star Wars but I knew better. I would wear my hair in Princess Lea buns so I could get more into character.
Now, with video games, movies, iPods, iPads, computers, smart phones, who needs imagination? Shoot, who even needs friends? If each of our children were connected their own electronic world there would probably less fighting and less “I’m bored.” We don’t even have to talk to our family members if we don’t want to! Can’t we just let electronics be the easy answer to a quiet house and a moment of smiling “ahh”.
Problem is, you, like most parents today, remember summer without personal electronics because they didn’t exist. We know the joy of letting our imaginations run wild and we want that for our kids. We worry about the effect of being plugged in too much and so we contemplate going unplugged. I’m not sure I’m completely on board for that either.
Though I do love to threaten my children with having an unplugged summer (mainly because they all of a sudden become excellent cleaners) I’m not sure it’s the best idea. I remember all the fun, parent approved things we did during our electronic free summers, but I also remember the things we did to save ourselves from boredom that weren’t exactly safe.
Lizard hunting and rope swinging would only get us so far until we needed to find something at little more thrilling. How about rattle snake hunting? No, we couldn’t just stick to a safe bull-snake, but don’t worry we always ate what we caught. Yep, rattle snake tastes like chicken. Well, maybe a rubber chicken because my brother always over cooked it.
The unsafe fun didn’t stop there. Water fights turned epic and my brother decided to go on top of the roof so he could soak someone from above as they were walking out the front door. He took one step to far and fell off the roof. He is lucky he only broke his arm.
How about piling up mattresses and jumping off the loft? Or better yet, lining the stairs with mattresses and sliding down them in sleeping bags. I don’t think we put too many holes in walls and we only missed the mattress a couple of times when jumping from the loft.
Then there was the time we were supposed rake and bag up a field full of weeds. I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was to set the field on fire instead. We were surrounded by forest. We were lucky it didn’t turn into a catastrophic forest fire.
If you are really bored take turns folding each other into the sofa bed. It didn’t work out well for my brother though. We pushed him in too far and couldn’t get him back out. Never you fear, the fire department was just a phone call away. I’m sure that was one of their weirdest rescues. I’ll have to tell the full story here sometime.
Then there was the time my brother decided to go for a hike without telling anyone. He got lost and had to spend the night in the forest. He found his way home the next day expecting a tearful homecoming. Problem was, no one knew he was even missing. I know you are starting to wonder what kind of parents wouldn’t even notice their child was missing for a whole day. Give them a little break, they had 13 kids and my brother was a teenager who often took off to his friend’s house for a couple of days. I don’t think he went hiking on his own after that, so he learned a good lesson right?
We had many more adventures that included eating tadpoles, cliff diving, pitch fork throwing, a burnt down kitchen, wrecked cars, firecracker injuries and carefully crafted explanations when questions were asked.
So what do you think? Is going unplugged and subjecting our children to their own imaginations worth the health hazard? As long as we teach our children how to dial 911, I’d say yes;). Here’s to an imagination filled summer… as long as the parent’s aren’t looking!
If you enjoyed this, you might also like this story about my hippie mother.