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Those Long Lost Days of Summers Past

Rarely am I the type of mom that pulls the “back in the day” speech, but sometimes I just cannot resist. Now that summer is in full swing, the kids are beginning to look for activities to keep them occupied -- events that are planned, cost money, or require me driving them across town. What happened to those lazy days of summer when the neighborhood was crawling with kids from dawn ‘til dusk?

When I was growing up, not only did our parents not spend their time entertaining us, they were rather irritated when we were unable to find ways to entertain ourselves. Once the sun was up, we were out the door searching for friends to play with. If we slept in, it was not uncommon for our mom to come into our room and “kindly suggest” we get up, get out, and get active.

Our activities ranged from kickball in the street to street gang bike riding. (We played kickball on a dead end street. We were not that dangerous!) Skinned knees meant you won. They were not cause for alarm and going home. It was on those streets we learned that spit cures the common road burn. We also tricked out our bicycles to sound like motorcycles (or so we thought), attaching playing cards to the spokes of our wheels with unattended clothes pins. Our biker gangs were a force to be reckoned with.

Oh, sure, it got hot. On very special days one of the neighborhood moms might fix us lemonade or Kool-Aid, but mostly we would drink out of our garden hose. (Each summer, it only took one bad experience to remember to let the water run cold before taking a gulp. Hot hose water made for a miserable experience for an already hot and sweaty kid.) Of course, no water break was complete without at least a few of us being drenched by the hose. It was usually the person who took the first drink.

Don’t think we didn’t try to sneak back into the house when the heat of the day got to us. We did, but usually only long enough to help unload groceries or clean our rooms. That kept us from trying to sneak in too often. Most of the time, we found ways to keep cool -- hoses, forts, tree houses: all of them were created with sweat and imagination.

This was our daily routine. We knew it was “safe” to come back inside when the street lights started to come on. We knew that if we heard our name called out, we were late, which meant we were stuck inside the next day. Even though we tried to get inside to stay cool, that was the last place we wanted to be stuck for an entire summer day.

These days when I suggest the kids go outside to play, I get a blank stare in return.

“Just go outside and play.”

(...blank look...)

“You know…that place where the sun comes from and the fresh air is free?”

"Mom, it’s hot out there."

“True, but you can take water bottles (babies) and keep cool by going to the pool (sissies) or come back inside after an hour or so (wimps)!”

In turn I usually get a response along the lines of “There is a heat advisory and it wouldn’t be good for me to be outside” to “I think I will go to a movie instead. Will you drive us?”

What happened to kids? Have they no sense of adventure and summer exploration?

Of course, as I write this I am complaining bitterly about it being so hot outside that I can barely muster up the energy to go to the grocery store. Somewhere, my inner child is pointing, laughing, and calling me a wimp.