As I watched my children run through the sprinkler, I thought to myself, “This. This is what childhood should be. Not tik tok or roblox or fill in the blank with the newest, trendiest time suck you find on a screen that are toxic on so many levels to children’s mental development, health and at times actual safety.” I also thought to myself how lucky I was to be the last generation of children to be “unplugged” during childhood. Born in the 80’s, raised in the 90’s.
Fast forward a day or two later, as I hypocritically, scrolled through Instagram stories. I stumbled upon a quote by Shelby Brunn, “I often hear; ‘I’m so glad we had a childhood before technology took over’…as if we are settling for this is just the way life is now? No. You can fight like hell to give your children a childhood they deserve. It won’t be easy, or popular, but it will be worth it.”
There are wonderful new experiences each generation is blessed to adventure through as technology advances. With each generation, we can also pull out some, or many trends, we feel are a detriment to each generation. Sometimes my soul aches for my children’s generation. I have seen the war on childhood being waged, even prior to having my own children. There is a push for them to grow up too soon. To go from baby to adult, skipping past the formative childhood years, for our convenience. A push to force adult topics and decisions on them. All this before they have the appropriate mental and emotional development to properly understand, rationalize and form their own beliefs on said topics.
I am with Shelby Brunn on this. I will fight like hell to preserve my children’s innocence. To allow them to have the childhood they deserve. To not rush them onto the next phase, even if I’m not loving our current chapter. A childhood that focuses on fun, learning through play and simple pleasures.
I truly believe we can reclaim childhood for our children. We can be the generation that returns childhood to a balance of innocence and natural growth. I refuse to believe that I have to just “go along to get along.” I am okay with redefining what childhood will look like for my family, even if this means going against current expectations and assumptions we see plastered in our feeds.
Childhood should be a time when children explore, get their hands and feet so dirty playing outside it leaves rings around the bathtub once we scrub the day off. A time to be given an appropriate space to make messes. The best money I spent this summer was buying an abundance of dirt for our gardens and yard. My children never tired of it. Sadly, we used the last bit of it this past week to fill beds for our fall garden.
Childhood should be a time when Sunday dresses get plastered to your skin from running through the sprinkler. For crunching through fall leaves and trying to pick out the best pumpkin in the patch. Childhood should be a time to throw yourself back in the snow to make snow angels, not caring about how much snow you get in your boots when doing so.
Childhood should be a time to run barefoot through the grass, attempting to pop bubbles in the evening sun. To steal drinks from the hose as you play. Childhood should be about exploring what is around you. How many butterflies can you spy? What about bees? What animals do you hear? How many different flowers can you spot while on a walk. Making wildflower bouquets is one of my daughter’s favorite things to do when we stroll down our street.
Childhood should be a time for trial and error, making mistakes, with the safety net of parents to catch them. It should be a time for learning through play and allowing their imaginations to blossom without hindrance. Allowing them to learn by doing and joining in, even when it makes your teeth hurt to watch them do something “wrong”. Childhood should be a time of discovering strengths without constant pressure to achieve.
Childhood should be about being permitted to feel and experience big, tough emotions without feeling as if your parents love depends on you always responding perfectly. Without fear of being punished for being human. I say this as much to myself as to you. I struggle and can be triggered more often than I would like to admit when my children are having what seems to me to be “ridiculous” behaviors or reactions.
To end this post, I am going to throw in a disclaimer and attempt to not get on my soapbox about this very touchy topic. Yes, my children have screen time. Right now this looks like supervised TV as my oldest is only four. We are very protective about what they watch. They do not have free reign to go from show to show, etc. Yes, some days they watch more than they should. Pregnancy migraines can make you question your decision to not purchase tablets for your kids. I believe in a healthy balance of screen time to be monitored and adjusted based on your child’s age, maturity and needs. I believe there are some wonderful benefits to using technology and it can certainly be used in a positive manner for connection, education, entrepreneurship, etc.
On the flip side, I have seen first hand working with children, the toxicity of some applications, shows, social media and games. I have observed what happens when parents do not monitor their children’s online activities closely. I believe when it comes to this subject, privacy is not a given. I believe parents should be informed and know everything their child is doing online. Be open with your children about this. Communicate to them why it is important to keep an open dialogue about it. Build trust so if they do run into trouble, confusion or have questions they feel they can speak to you about it without fear of punishment or judgement. It is our job to be their protector and guard their hearts and minds from subjects beyond their age and maturity.
When our children look back at their childhood, they will not remember their favorite day of sitting around mindlessly being on a screen. This does not mean we have to totally eliminate screens. But, we can certainly fight to reclaim the simplicity of allowing children to be children.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. | Proverbs 4:23