July 9 12

Because we have these new summer rules at our house, movie night has taken on extra-special meaning. Instead of one watching LOST on the tv in our bedroom, one watching a superhero movie on the tv in our family room and one watching something animated on the tv in the basement, movie night is family movie night, where we all crowd on top of each other on one single couch, passing the popcorn and arguing over the blanket.

So now I am constantly on the search to find things that interest all three of the kids, which—when you have kids who are as different as mine are—can be a challenge. When we all crowded around a small screen to watch the preview for the new LesMiserables movie and the kids took delight in watching me cry some ugly tears as Anne Hathaway so brilliantly mastered Fantine’s pain in I Dreamed a Dream, and forced me to play the song over and over and over until finally I introduced then to Do You Hear the People Sing? and then it was over for my kids—Les Miz fans for life. So, we downloaded the movie version, put it on for the kids and then…”WHY IS THERE NO MUSIC?” because, well, we had downloaded the Liam Neeson version which, apparently, has no music. Fail #1. So, then we downloaded another version—the 10th anniversary concert (wheee Colm Wilkinson!), put it on for the kids and then…”WHY IS THERE ONLY MUSIC?” because, well, the concert is not the play, it’s *just* the music. Fail #2. So, I guess we wait now for December and hope and pray that Russell Crowe doesn’t ruin the entire thing for everyone involved.

In attempt #3, we scored big.

My Girl.

Everyone loved it.

The kids had so many questions about the early 70s.

Mostly, they were focused on the fact that the kids were allowed to just ride around their small Pennsylvania time with no bike helmets.

“Life was just different back then, you guys.”

I told them stories of when I was kid. How my long summer days in the 1980s were spent outside, riding around with neighborhood kids. We explored the ravine behind our house, we built lemonade stands, we had swinging contests in the backyard, we played mega games of Monopoly, we rollerskated, we climbed trees, we got lost in Barbie’s dream house. We did everything that we could pack into those precious daylight hours and always made sure to be home for dinner.

We played.

Because we could.

We didn’t worry about safety.

We didn’t worry about the shows we were missing.

We hadn’t discovered the mesmerizing ability of screens.

We didn’t have cell phones, or ipods, or DSis.

We had our Schwinns, our Nikes, and our imaginations. 

My kids don’t know how to just play. They want to be entertained from the time they wake up until the moment they go to sleep. They crave it, they need it. They don’t know how to make their own fun. After 20 minutes on their bikes they are hot and sweaty. After 15 minutes on the trampoline they are tired and ready to move on to the next big thing. I try to explain to my kids that I did all the playing when I was kid; it’s their turn to play now. I am not responsible to build fun into every minute of every day. I am not responsible for playing Monopoly. I am not responsible for playing in Barbie’s dream house.

I mean, I get that we do have to shelter our kids a little bit more, and I can’t just let them run off on their bikes and not wonder where they are until dinnertime.

I can’t just throw a $5 bill at Emily and tell her to go to the park and the convenience store for popsicles with a friend.

So, I realize that things have changed. But I wish we could go back a little bit.

I wish we could just had them a Schwinn, a pair of Nikes, and an imagination and just let them go. Because I’m sure what they could come up with would be amazing, and most definitely less annoying. 


  1. I remember when I was young my mom used to drive me to town and drop me off at my friends house (whose parents were at work) and we would just run around town all day. We would go from one house to the next, hit the gas station for snacks, walk down to the ice cream shop, take walks by the river. Now I can’t even fathom letting my kids ride a bus to school. Crazy.

    Comment by Jen on July 9, 2012
  2. I know. It makes me sad. I wish my kids could really experience being kids, yanno?

    Comment by ali on July 9, 2012
  3. Why is that? Why have things changed? My kids are only 6 & 4 so I wouldn’t let them go anywhere alone, but why can’t I when they’re 10? I’m not sure that the world is worse than it was, I think how people parent has changed. Have your kids watched the Goonies? THE BEST.

    Comment by Sandy on July 9, 2012
  4. They LOVE the Goonies.

    I think it’s a combination of both—the world being worse (or we are just more aware of it, maybe) and MOST DEFINITELY the way people parent is different, much more helicopter-y.

    Comment by ali on July 9, 2012
  5. Going to the convenience store for popsicles was THE BEST

    Comment by Sharon on July 9, 2012
  6. Chubby hated riding her bike with the flower basket to the Jamesway because it took so much effort, but we never thought twice about NOT doing it.

    And LOVE that movie.

    Comment by Cheri on July 9, 2012
  7. I have been having this conversation with different people recently as well. I think, yes, the world has changed, gotten worse, but mostly we are more aware of the bad things that happen. We have access to the going on’s of the world so much more now & lets be honest, the news doesn’t ever report of a bike trip to the store when it doesn’t end in disaster. My oldest is not even three but I desperately want to learn how to parent him in a way that won’t involve helicopter parenting. I am more scared of someone getting me in trouble for letting my kid be alone in the backyard, etc, than I am of him actually getting hurt.

    Is it any better in the country? Are kids there still allowed more freedom than city dwellers?

    Comment by Meghan on July 9, 2012
  8. We used to go to San Diego with a lot of other families every summer. The kids would ride their bikes ALL over, checking in for food. That blows my mind, that we were just so FREE. We went for years, and the last time we went I was 13, so I was really young for a lot of those years. I wish we could do that for our kids.

    Comment by Megan @ Mama Bub on July 9, 2012
  9. We would walk everywhere! Up to the indoor mini-golf place that was like 3 miles up the BUSY road. Or the outdoor mini-golf place that was a mile and a half up the same BUSY road. I shudder to think what my mom let us do. But it was a different time.

    With my nieces and nephews, I don’t get the option to not play with them, since I don’t see them all the time and sometimes I wish they would just play by themselves.

    Comment by Kristabella on July 9, 2012
  10. last week I was working from home and my 10yo was home with me. He and his two friends were complaining they were bored and I gave him $5 and sent them to the corner store (which happens to have a quick McD’s in it). It is a 1.5km walk there (3K round trip). They had a good time, picked up snack size McFlurries. But they came right back. Didn’t go exploring or anything. Which is good because I would have worried if he hadn’t, but… He deserves to have free time to just roam. Hopefully by the end of this summer he will (and we will) feel comfortable enough for him to do that.

    Comment by Chantal on July 9, 2012
  11. Russell Crowe usually ruins everything, so prepare to be disappointed!

    That scares me about having kids. I want to be able to kick them outside with no phones and not worry about them until it’s dinner time.

    Comment by Avitable on July 9, 2012
  12. It’s sad what this world is coming too. I’m still a little lucky because we live in extreme rural Colorado. Our kids can still ride their bikes unattended with friends, spend all day at the pool unaccompanied, or just be kids. Of course, the general dangers are still there, but our kids are definitely less likely to be kidnapped in our area. For now 🙁

    Also, My Girl, I ball every time I watch that movie.

    Comment by Gamanda on July 9, 2012
  13. and how…i work so hard at figuring it out (being a child of the 80s myself) and so far the only strategy that has worked is…..ignoring them! if only the toddler would get in line. the rest are coping quite well (so far)

    Comment by Louise on July 9, 2012
  14. Totally agree. If my kids play in the front yard instead of the backyard I worry the neighbours will think I’m not supervising them enough. Also, they get bored within seconds when I tell them to just play. Just did it a minute ago and they are whining already as I type this. I sympathize and wish I knew what to do about this.

    Comment by Kathy on July 9, 2012
  15. Across the road from my house growing up there was a very small little woods area with old railroad tracks running through it. We spent literally hours building forts, walking up the trunks of partially fallen trees, collecting old rail nails and just being kids. The town has long since torn it all down (even the trees) and made it into a green space with one little gazebo in the middle. No charm at all. I wish my kids had stuff like that but electronics seem to have killed their imaginations.
    Love this post. Nostalgia….

    Comment by Nuala Reilly on July 9, 2012
  16. Also, we do the movie night thing too. Try the princess bride, willow, flight of the navigator (if you can find it) and the original annie. Can’t lose with any of those (especially the first one. As you wish)

    Comment by Nuala Reilly on July 9, 2012
  17. I also have trouble finding movies that all the kids can agree on. We haven’t tried My Girl yet, but that will have to make it into the rotation. Princess Bride is really a hit in my family, though!

    Comment by Movie Fan Zack on July 11, 2012
  18. Oooh, what about “Now and Then”? It’s right up there with “My Girl” for kitschy charm. I think it would be appropriate for all ages, although it might be a little girly for Josh. Sounds like a fun tradition!

    Comment by Jessica on July 18, 2012

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