Gilland: A childhood without screens?

Child on a bicycle

I often wonder, with a little bit of worry mixed in, about how today’s children will fare in our ever-changing world. I have 10 reasons for this concern, as that is the number of grandchildren with which we’ve been blessed.

Times were different when I grew up. Most of my free time was spent in the great outdoors, even in the wintertime. Growing up in Indiana, basketball was a passion year around. The rule in our house was tied to the current temperature. I was allowed to be outdoors playing basketball if the temperature was above 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now, even in Indiana, 33 degrees is cold! But the cold didn’t begin to sway us away from the desire to be outside. There we were, bouncing basketballs that were so cold most of their bounce was gone. Still, we played on.

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There were no indoor games that kids were so entrenched in that provided any competition to the great outdoors. TV was kind of young in its development, and our little rabbit ear antennas were good for maybe two stations—both of which were in black and white. 

There were bikes to ride, baseball games to play, swing sets to, well, swing on. You get the picture. Growing up on the outskirts of our town, we had about 10 acres of property to roam, and across the street, a forest that went on for miles. 

Later, we moved more into town, with almost no property. I could walk to school every day. During the summer, the schools were open for several weeks in a program called “Summer Recreation.” Most kids were back there during those weeks, not for classes, but for the fun, as we played box hockey, softball, and tetherball.

As I look back on my experiences, two things hit my mind. One is, my experiences now feel like a real-life Norman Rockwell painting. Kind of cool, great colors…but a good bit out of touch with the current reality.

Secondly, I wonder how we survived? We would be out of the house for hours upon time, drinking our water from our well or through the garden hose. We were free from cellphones and not even those digital pagers were invented yet. We didn’t have those things. And we didn’t miss them, either. 

In fact, I think we were better off with our faces free from the small screens of phones, and in the sun, waiting for a hit in the softball game, exploring a field looking for rabbits, and riding those cool Sting Ray bikes with the banana seats.

I still have my Schwinn Sting Ray by the way. Like me, it has seen its better years, but one day I plan to restore it, and let it remind me of those wonderful days long gone. 

I know ours is a different world than the one I’ve described, but there are still a great bit of adventures that your kids can discover that don’t include the little blue screen of a phone or tablet. Do all you can to unleash your kids to God’s creation and the outdoors. There is much to experience.

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