Summer officially came to an end this morning at 7 am, when my daughters boarded the school bus. Part of me is overjoyed. I’m free again, and my days are all mine. But another part of me is sad. The carefree, sleep-until-you-wake-up days of summer are over.
What made me saddest this morning was the realization that I can no longer walk my girls down the street to the elementary school. Now, they have to ride the bus because the middle school is simply too far away for an early morning hike.
And that robs them of one more chance to get some exercise.
Exercise used to come naturally to children, especially in the summer. For those of us growing up in the 1970s, summer was a time for endless activity. We built forts, played kick ball and rode our bikes. We played ringolevio on the streets with the entire neighborhood, skateboarded up and down our hill, and did cartwheels and hand stands until our heads spun.
Sure, my kids played outside this summer, too. They swam, biked, and walked. Samantha even did some running, and Annie practiced throwing her softball. But they also spent a good deal of time indoors planted in front of a screen, watching movies and old episodes of “Get Smart,” or playing games on the computer. When I couldn’t take it any more, I shooed them outdoors and told them to ride, run, walk, anything to move their bodies.
Outside, they were typically alone. The neighborhood was eerily quiet as all the kids went their separate ways to participate in separate activities. Gone is the easy camaraderie that once existed in suburban neighborhoods. If you were a warm body who walked outside, you were a candidate for kickball.
When I compare my childhood summers to those that my children are living, I feel a sense of sadness. The spontaneous play that we grew up with has evaporated. Instead, we are left with a generation of children whose bodies are starved for physical activity.
The question is, what are we going to do about it?