People are quick to malign “kids these days” for all sorts of things, and some of it is fair, but much of it is not.
Kids are frequently criticized, along with their parents, for a failure to get outside and play unless there is a super structure, like a team. Parents are criticized for overbooking their children on teams and classes and not leaving enough time for spontaneous activities that children plan amongst themselves.
Last week, just before the blizzard, there were cartoons on the Internet floating around equating the dinosaurs and fossils with the “neighborhood kid who shovels snow” and other extinct species.
The problem with all these “urban legends” is that they are not true. Maybe they are true in some places, but here in Swampscott, kids seem to be out and about, figuring out wonderful ways to spend free time.
I know the driving ban during the storm led to all sorts of creative ideas like sliding around the streets on bicycles, office chairs, trash bags, boogie boards and leaf bags.
It might be accurate to accuse “kids these days” of leaving the television, computer and lights ablaze when they run out the door to play pickup football. It might be true that the breakfast and lunch dishes are not cleared when they run out the door to take a walk with some friends. And, they might be accused of leaving the door wide open as they leave, but they do get out.
I think we are fortunate to live in a beautiful seaside community where our children have the ability to walk to fields, parks, ice cream shops and beaches. They can walk to frozen ponds and schools and to each other’s homes.
Because they can, they do. And because they do, they learn an important measure of independence from doing so. Children in second and third grade often walk to school themselves and in doing so, they learn to be responsible for their actions and for arriving at their destination on time.
Despite, the memes of lazy teens on the Internet, there were many teens out in the blizzard enjoying the snow and yes, shoveling. I observed many teens working hard in the storm to help their families and neighbors and to show some entrepreneurial spirit by shoveling for extra spending money.
Yes, it might be true that when they walk in from shoveling two feet of snow, they throw their wet gloves on the floor and plop onto a soft couch with a cup of cocoa, but they can possibly be forgiven for that.
I think we need to be careful when we criticize large chunks of the population. If “kids these days” are not getting out and doing things on their own, we need to make sure we are not the ones standing in their way when they are little.
If we overprotect and hover rather than let them run around our neighborhoods when they are young, they might grow up without the habit of calling a bunch of friends and suggesting a pickup game of basketball, a snowball fight or an ice cream.
It is nice when everything is cancelled – school, sports, rehearsals and even traffic – to bring out the most children and the best ideas. But, it doesn’t need to be the only time something spontaneous happens. And, it isn’t.