Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Value of Play

We are a mere twelve school days away from summer vacation.


After the daunting 180 days we faced back in September, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

As a teacher I, of course, am absolutely thrilled.  I am as exhausted as my students and ready for the sort of re-charge I can only find on the sandy shores of the Atlantic ocean. Twelve weeks without lesson plans, parent conferences and grading papers does wonders for the soul.  Not that I won't work all summer....those months are reserved for cleaning out the house, organizing piles upon piles of stuff that has accumulated during the school year and caring for all of the things that were overlooked during months of ball games and practices for not one, but two dedicated players.

My boys are ready for summer vacation too.  They had such a wonderful weekend playing outside with friends and cousins, soaking up the southern sun with out anything scheduled into their day.  Dragging them out of bed this morning was darn near impossible.  In fact, last night my oldest actually asked permission to go to bed right around eight o'clock.

That's how you know they had a good day.

That is how I remember my childhood....the years before every eight year old had a smartphone and playing with your friends didn't happen through an online video game.

Don't get me wrong...I LOVE my laptop and would be lost without the internet.  I am a writer, I research, read up on odd news articles and play the occasional game of Candy Crush.  I check the weather and the news in the wee hours of the morning like most cop's wives.  As any LEOW (law enforcement officer's wife) will tell you, insomnia is par for the course.  My laptop is like a security blanket for me- if the local news sites don't report any shootings or stabbings I know I can go back to sleep safe in the knowledge if I wake up in fear again, all I have to do is log on and check the news.  I am just as dependent on technology as anyone, but it doesn't stop me from recognizing that there are things far more important in life than how many people commented on my status update.

My kids each own an older model Nintendo DS and a Kindle that they use occasionally to look up videos on how to create elaborate lego structures but the only other video game system in our house is an original play station from the 90's currently covered in a layer of dust.

We don't have "fancy" cable, just the basics.  I have never seen any of HBO's amazing television series and my boys have limitations on what they are allowed to watch on television.

They don't have cell phones either...nor do they need them.  If a young lady wants to talk to my son on the phone, she can give him her number and he can use the house phone.  Sound old fashioned to you?  You bet.  And that is exactly how I like it.

I want to know what my children are up to.  No, I don't need to be in their business all the time but a little knowledge can go a long way in teaching them not to make big mistakes that will follow them the rest of their lives.  I also want them to have a taste of the good life, the way I grew up, where weekends and summer days were meant for hanging out, building relationships and playing a pickup neighborhood game of kickball.

In fact, I picked up a kick ball this weekend at our local discount store.  Guess what they did all weekend?

We have a huge backyard and a set of plastic "bases" I found at the dollar store.  When kick ball got boring, they played wiffle ball and helped their dad gather twigs and sticks for a bonfire with the neighbors.

Technology is awesome.  I rely on it everyday at work and home for a variety of things but I don't feel like it should define us as people.  Kids need to play.  They need to explore the world with their imaginations.  At a baseball game we went to a couple of weeks ago, there was a boy who entertained himself for an hour and a half with a stick and the dirt at the base of a tree.  His imagination went wild.  I bet he grows up to be an engineer or an architect or graphic designer or maybe a writer.

Let's not forget the learning that goes on when kids play.  Building relationships, developing organizational skills and discovering ways to resolve conflicts without anger and violence can't be taught with video games and internet videos but they can be learned on a playground.  My oldest son had a coach once who said he truly believed world peace could be achieved on a baseball field.  At the time I laughed, I didn't really get what he meant.  I get it now.  In order to learn to interact with others, we have to actually interact with others.

Adults need to play too.  There was a meme going around on social networking last week that asked the question- where will you be looking at your electronics this weekend?  Sadly, it is true.  We have all seen it- entire groups of adults out to dinner at a restaurant, each one with a cell phone in his or her hand instead of giving their undivided attention to their companions. Really?  Why not save yourself the cost of a dinner and eat a freezer meal alone at home with your tablet for company?

Play time is great family time too.  It doesn't have to cost money to play.  The park is a wonderful, free place to spend a day.  Toss a Frisbee, play catch, take a bike ride.  Many a Saturday night we have friends over to play cards or now that we have our new fire pit built, enjoy a bonfire and some laughs.  Even the tightest of law enforcement family budgets has room for a board game.  Without the cell phones and tablets present please.

 In a LEO family, playtime is all that much more important because family time is often limited due to crazy cop schedules, court cases and unexpected overtime. 

Life is short, make every minute count.  Work because you have to, play because you want to.  What sort of things do you and your family do to "play" together?  LEOW's what sort of budget friendly family time activities can you share?

1 comment:

  1. I have just recently told my daughter that it's good that I was widowed in this century. The internet is my favorite companion. I told her this during a phone call. She calls me every night before bed to make sure I have interaction with family. She shares her day with me as well as the antics of my grandchildren. She's been doing this since she left for college. I see her often and we laugh and get angry and cru together. We lift each other up and calm each other down. I'm very blessed to have such wonderful children. All 4 of them provide joy.