Have you noticed that kids these days are constantly hooked up to one electronic device or another? My two daughters were sitting side by side in silence on the couch one day, both furiously texting on their cell phones. After afew minutes the uncanny silence started to unerve me. "Who are you guys talking to?" I asked.
"Each other!" they giggled, and went back to texting for the next twenty minutes, the silence broken only by the furious typing clicks and the burbles of incoming texts.
I reminded myself to be grateful for small moments of silence such as this - a rarity with four children! However it struck me then that texting and Facebook truly have replaced the face-to-face - in fact the thrill of the text is part of the lure, the magic of the cyber world lending us all a glamorous and intruiging glow in the bluish light of our touch screens.
I thought back to when I was twelve, living in England. We played chess, soccer and tennis, and sometimes the entire neighbourhood would gather in the street to play 'British Commandos'. The game involved half of us being British Commandos in WW2 and the other half taking turns playing Germans as the Battle of Britain and the Blitzkrieg were re-enacted over brick garden walls and down the back alleys.
Years before that in Ottawa, my neighbourhood chums created The Backyard Drama Club, and we actually produced two shows - 'Oliver!' and 'The Wizard of Oz' for our parent's enjoyment. Did my children ever experience this sort of group play I wondered - the kind where no parents were involved, and where the hierarchies were left to our own devising?
I probably learned more in that unstructured play environment than any sort of organized activity could teach, because the lessons we learned then were lessons of survival, lessons of where we fit in, and how to fit in, and did we fit in. Looking back, we were for the most part very kind to each other, and played well together, and bonded as you do when you are having the kind of fun you will never forget, the kind where it is all in your imagination, and anyone can be a hero or a villain, a King or a Queen, or even the inimitable Court Jester if you liked to make everyone laugh.
Creative play and fresh air are tonic to the child's soul, and I fear our children are losing this in today's age of cyber games and electronics. In this column I hope to bring forth some ideas to stimulate you and your loved ones to stop, take a breath, put away the electronic equipment, (even if it is a Wii!) and perhaps you might even be so inclined to don a silly hat, pick a flower and stick it in your lapel, and take the kids on a walk to find some pretty leaves to set out on your doorsill as a gift for the fairies this evening. They will thank you by blessing your household with rosy cheeks and happy smiles, and tonight your children will dream sweet dreams of magic and delight!