I Love You, But Get Out

Back in the old days, there was a magical place. A beautiful land full of freshly picked dandelions, easy laughter and lazy butterflies.  A secret world where you could feel the sun’s warm rays, smell the sweet  fragrance of fresh cut grass, and listen to the gentle rustling of the trees.

Do you remember this place?

No?

Well, just get up off your lazy butt, take three steps and open the door.

Nope, don’t look back longingly at your computer. Keep going. Fine, take your laptop with you. OK, take another step. That’s it. It’ll be all right, trust me… just take a few more steps…a few more…c’mon you can do it….good. Now take a look around. Breathe it all in. Ah, there.

Remember now?

It’s called outside. Ring any bells?

Outside: the place you experience for the 12.5 seconds it takes to get from your car to a building; the place you longingly look at through a window in between watching marathons of Breaking Bad and constantly checking your email; the place that at any given time of the year, is either ‘too cold’, ‘too humid’ or ‘too rainy’ for us to dare dream of venturing out into it. And if we do, we do nothing but complain about it.

No one goes outside anymore.

My kids have been home all summer and I think they’ve been outside (willingly) maybe once. One day last week, I looked out the window and was astonished to see them both riding their bikes down the driveway. Voluntarily. My mouth hung open. I thought maybe I should go get the camera so we could cherish this moment for all eternity. But before the thought crossed my mind, I heard a door slam, followed by the slow draggy thumps of little feet going back up the stairs.

“Hey!” I gushed. “You guys were outside! It’s fun, huh?” I pulled out my best fist-pump for emphasis. “So–get back out there! Go on!  Have fun! Get out! Aren’t you having fun out there? Huh? Fun? Huh??”

“Nope, we got bored,” my son said with a shrug. “There’s nothing to do out there.”

They were outside approximately three minutes.

Wait a minute! Where’s the TV? Where’s the iPad? I’m freaking out!

After I shooed them back out into the big bad world with instructions on how to make a game out of a stick and some rocks (making sure to quickly slam the door shut and flip the dead-bolt before they could throw their little bodies up against it and push it back open), I thought about my own childhood.

From the age of five to 13, I think I spent every single second of the day outside–from dawn till dusk and beyond. With my mother, it was mandatory. As soon as our cereal bowls were emptied, she’d hand us a five dollar bill for lunch, then push us out the door with her broom. “Go on! Get!” We knew better than to come back home until supper.

This was back in the days before video games, internet, smartphones, texting,.. before the invention of electricity (did I go too far?)  How did we know when it was time to go home for dinner? Either when it was too pitch dark outside to play hide-n-seek or when we could hear my mom hollering “DIIINNERRRRR!” two blocks away from the front porch, whichever came first.

Because of my mom’s parenting (or lack of), my brothers and I were tough, having spent our entire summers virtually on our own out in the backyard. Sometimes we’d venture off to ride our bikes around the block or skateboard to our local five and dime to buy food (okay, mostly Mello Yello and wax lips). Sure, we were unsupervised–and today the very notion gives most parents heart palpitations–but we were independent. We were creative. We were survivors of the streets. We were forced to improvise and use our imagination. And get into trouble, naturally.

Back then, grown-ups weren’t such a constant fixture in our lives, hovering over us, waiting for something to go wrong so they could swoop in and save us. When I was a kid, adults were these fuzzy shadows in the distance that occasionally barked orders at us, but for the most part, left us alone all day to fend for ourselves.

We fought our own battles: if a kid socked me in the gut, I’d sock him right back. We’d both snivel a little but would eventually suck it up and resolve things with no parental involvement. We scrounged for our own food: “I’ll trade you my Pop rocks for your Twizzlers!”  “Ooh! Look, score! I found a red hot ball on the ground!”  We explored the world and were fearless, adventurous, and more than a little stupid: “Hey! Let’s climb that huge tree, then try to jump into the neighbor’s swimming pool!” or “Hey! Let’s shoot lawn darts off the garage roof!”

Things were never boring. Things were the opposite of boring–and okay, sometimes involved quick trips to the ER. But I’d like to think somewhere deep in my heart, that lawn dart sticking out of my brother’s bloody foot helped make him the man he is today. And that BB stuck in the corner of my brother’s eye helped him build character.

What happens when my kids go outside? What shenanigans do they get into? What cool games do they invent? How do they use their imagination?  What schemes do they cook up?

Oh, man! Again with the fresh air and the grass and the endless sky! This is sooooooo boring, Mom!

Nothing. They’re bored. Because there are no other kids outside in a 10 mile radius. But at least they’re out there, right? Boredom is good for the soul!

And mommy’s sanity.

I plan to kick them both outside again today.

Just as soon as I can find my broom and have my husband install another extra-strength dead-bolt.

*****

What things did you do as a kid to combat boredom? Did you drive your mom crazy during the summer? If you have kids, do they complain about going outside? If not, can your kids take my kids outside today and show them how to play? If you don’t have kids, can you come over here and babysit mine for a few hours?

Proof my kids can be outside and have fun at the same time.
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127 thoughts on “I Love You, But Get Out

  1. Oh no! What sort of world are we creating where kids find being outside boring? I loved it as a kid and I still love it now. The backyard could be anything! It could have dinosaurs roaming around, you could pretend to be a wild pony, you could run away from creepy monsters that lived in the woods… even when I did have video games… I spent maybe once or twice a week actually playing it. My memories really consist of the outdoors.

    1. Exactly. I remember that even when we finally did get video games (atari) my mom would still scream at us to go outside. So we’d get on our bikes and zoom off down the road. I remember spending hours just riding my bike around the block with my friends over and over again.

      1. Oh yeah. I pretty much was outside regardless if my parents told me to go outside or not (normally they didn’t have to). And I could ride my bike, run around like a chicken with its head cut off, etc…. and sometimes I didn’t even have a friend to do it with. I was just outside talking to myself. haha

  2. I barely remember my parents being around in the summer although I’m pretty sure they had to be? Possibly. I’ve also noticed that kids really don’t know what to do when left to their own devices since we’re all about structured activities. I don’t know what’s in store for my 2-year-old. He currently wants to go outside all the time. His favorite activity is watching me smack a ball into the air while he shouts “Up in the sky?” Likely won’t last once he learns how to virtually have an angry bird smack a ball into the sky.

    1. Aw, I have to admit a twinge of envy when you described your son saying “up in the sky?” My son was constantly asking to go outside at that age! He called it “the sun”. He’d stand in the window, even on a chilly snowy winter day and yell, “Mum? Out sun? I want out sun!!” And we were outside even in sub-zero temps, spending hours just walking around. He’s fave pastime was to throw rocks into puddles (and eat them) Oh, those were the days. Now I can’t even get him to shut off his Nintendo DS for a few minutes.

  3. This post is so true. I don’t have kids, but I’m pretty sure when I do, my boyfriend will see to it that they don’t get a computer, phone or tv in their bedroom. As much as I like those things, it’s really sad that that’s ALL that kids know. Poor nature, it must feel so rejected! Good luck keeping your kids outside. 😉

    1. Smart move not having a TV in their room. My kids do have one. I think their biggest time-suck is the Wii. My son wants to play Mario Kart all the time and it really bugs me because I want to play it. They do have a big pool outside though and that helps get them out there if only for a half hour, then they come running back in. So basically they go in and out all the live long day.

  4. Snoring Dog Studio

    My childhood was like yours, too, girl! My dad would have to walk outside come dinner time and whistle for us to come home. I’m sure my mom must have enjoyed the break she got from tending 5 unruly children. I’ll say this… just wait until your kids grow up and have to work 8 to 5 in a cubicle job. They’ll find all sorts of reasons to be outside. Wish they could understand that now.

    1. Love the story about your dad whistling for you to come home. My best friend lived about five houses down the road and if I spent too long there (I practically LIVED there) he’d walk down the road and holler for me. You don’t see too many parents doing that now. It’s all about pre-arranged play dates.

  5. I think it was a generational thing to kick your kids out when we were little, Darla. My mom did it, too. I always hated being kicked outside (it’s sooo hot in FL), but always had fun once I was. And I remember a brief time here in FL when I was thrilled because I had 3 new playmates: you and your brothers!

    1. Ha! I bet it was brutally hot down there in Florida, Kim! Yeah, why am I not surprised Aunt Rowena was pretty blunt about kicking you guys out, too? Must be the Stairs way! She and my dad had such a hard childhood growing up, I’m sure they weren’t very sympathetic to us kids being ‘bored’.

    1. I remember going outside at night and there being crowds of roaming kids! We’d all end up playing epic games of hide-n-seek. Seems so strange to think about it today. But we would go rollerskating and skateboarding in the dark down busy roads and my parents weren’t concerned in the slightest. Things were so different then…sigh.

  6. Back in the day when we only had one TV in the house and I hated what my parents watched, having to share a bedroom with my brother so no escape indoors, going outside was all there was to do. We knew to stay in perimeters, and the road was too scary anyway. I don’t think it was that much safer back then, the shopping centre down the road harboured someone living in the flats above who kidnapped two girls (they were found safe).

    You’re right it was due to lack of technology that occupied our time now, I recall waiting 10 minutes for a game to load on an old Spectrum computer, it would inevitabley crash anyway. We used to collect caterpillers which indundated the park one summer, they were black and orange striped and hairy, we’d let them crawl over our faces. We all broke out in a rash.

    1. Yeah, it’s weird because I’m not sure it really was ‘safer’. It’s not like back then there were no creepy predators lurking around. Maybe it’s because we didn’t have the media coverage we do now to scare the crap out of my parents back then.

      Our first computer was a gigantic thing that my dad would have to enter code into to make a straight line or a triangle. We thought that was the coolest! Our first video game was Pong and Combat, just two tanks firing at each other. Then we wanted to stay inside to play Atari but my mom would scream at us to get out.

  7. There is a secret weapon that may work for you. House cleaning. My mom would start every morning in the summer by thumping the vacuum against our bedroom door. My sister and I shared a room. She would greet us with a long list of chores to do. We couldn’t wait to get out of the house. I used to threaten it with my own kids! Worked like a charm!
    Loved your story!

    1. ha! I bet it worked like a charm. That is a great idea. My son, to give him credit, is very good at doing some chores without me even having to ask him to…but I’m sure if I handed him a toilet brush, he’d have second thoughts about complaining he’s bored.

  8. My mother had 8 children – first we cleaned the house each morning – then we were sent outside for “chores”. We lived on a farm and there were plenty…once all that was done, though – we were on our own. There weren’t neighbor kids to play with, but we had 55 acres, streams, woods, pastures, farm animals and pets – and lots of baby brothers and sisters. I would hide in the woods, often with a book, and come back – bug bitten and poison ivy streaked.

    We did not use the “B” word – it was sure to get you an extra ration of chores. When you got old enough, you had to either help bale hay or can and freeze foods from the garden and nearby orchards. Going back to school was always such a relief.

    My boys could not be kept indoors. After breakfast they’d head out, armed with instructions to check in each hour – but they usually were out in our yard anyway, or in the driveway playing hoops. For many years, the background sound of being home was the sound of a dribbled basketball, and my husband (a Hoosier through and through) always made sure we had the best regulation hoop and backboard.

    I have rambled on and on here – but I would love to come babysit your kids for you. Anytime.

    1. Ha! I was not allowed to use the “B” word either. That was sure to get me a whole list of chores. I distinctly remember my mom saying that if I couldn’t find something to do on my own, she’d have no problem finding something for me to do.

    2. I’m sure growing up on a farm meant endless chores for everyone to do. Your mom probably needed to get you guys all out of her hair. My mom was a housewife and had six kids, so I think that’s why she kicked us out all the time–to save her sanity. I can’t blame her.

      I would love for you to babysit, Katy. Too bad you’re a little bit far away!

  9. You read my mind and stole my memories. Well, maybe it was universal back in the day. We, too, were outside, in the yard with a fence when little and all over the neighborhood when we got older. I lived on my bicycle and went everywhere. You had to be back when the street lights came on. And we played games with the neighbor kids.
    With no technology save for the one TV, I was outside most of the time or at the library.
    Love the post and the photos, Darliciousness!

    1. My bike was my constant companion. I was ALWAYS on that thing. A pack of us kids would pedal off, then dump the bikes in a pile on the front lawn. And the library–we had one just a block away in an old brick building that was cool in the summer. I spent plenty of summer days over there reading. I read so much back then and it makes me wonder about my kids. They read, but not as much as I did.

  10. We were outside in the summer all the time too, though my mom did have to kick us out from the TV (which had three channels). We had woods, bikes, a neighborhood pool, other woods with blackberry bushes. It was great. The screen ban from 11am-5pm this summer is the best thing I’ve ever done.

  11. That’s the thing that really freaks me out about these days, there are no kids out there. We go outside and we’re the only ones. Every freakin’ kid has their day scheduled with a structured activity from sunrise to sunset. It’s weird.

  12. Ah well yes. These are the days of structured playdates and organized sports. What is WRONG with you, Darla, that you don’t have your kids’ daily activities planned down to the very second and are not schlepping them around to their friends’ houses and to Chuck E Cheese??? Pfft. I may have to call the authorities on you for bad parenting. But I like you, so I’ll think about it first. Best start changing your ways, girl!

    I used to live outside in the summer. Our neighborhood was full of kids, and yes, we came in when the streetlights came on. There was no texting, hardly any phones, so if you heard a scream, it was somebody’s mother, probably yours, and if not, that banshee yell was usually the alarm bell everyone needed to know it was time to go in. I now live in a neighborhood with 3 acre homes, so there aren’t a bunch of kids “just next door.” It’s a half mile walk, across very active streets, to get to the nearest kid. Who is probably at some camp or sports event or other playdate anyway. My oldest, luckily, loves to go play outside, but he likes sports and doesn’t do it himself. Someone needs to pitch to him, throw the ball with him, kick soccer balls, etc. And he is the oldest, so the little one isn’t a great playmate for that kind of thing. Plus, my youngest would much rather be watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or playing Angry Birds. What are we raising? Where is the imagination? I’m scared. Hold me?

    1. Banshee yell! Haha! I love that…that was my mom. We could hear her scream three streets over.

      Like you, we live in the country with farms all around. We have 3 acres of land and so does everyone else, so the houses are all so far apart. It’s not like they can just walk over to someone’s house like I used to do as a kid. I miss having a real neighborhood.

  13. I spent almost every waking moment outside as a kid. The “DINERRRR!” call was my nemesis. When I babysat as a young adult for one family all summer, I was horrified when the kids would turn down my offers to go to the park or ride bikes in the driveway. We NEVER went outside. ALL SUMMER. They watched Sponge Bob.

    And the lawn dart? That really happened? Do you bring it up all the time when your brother is around (I hope)?

    This was a great post! Your pictures are always the BEST.

    1. Ooh, god–spongebob! Yeah we’ve had our spongebob marathons with my kids.

      WE did have lawn darts and my younger brother’s foot was pierced by a sharp metal rod while he was riding his bike. My older brother thought it would be cool to throw it through his spokes and I guess his foot got in the way? I remember his sock was covered in blood and he had this perfectly round hold in the side of his foot. My dad wasn’t too pleased with us.

      And thanks about the pictures, those are all so old! My daughter was like maybe three years old in them!

  14. Love this post! Your childhood sounds so familiar – my mom would force us out to the backyard too and our imaginations had to be the entertainment. I don’t see that so much anymore with kids and it kind of makes me sad that they’re not learning to self-entertain.

    1. Thanks, Audrey. My kids are getting better with the imagination thing now. They’ll play a lot with their stuffed animals and Barbies. I think as long as that TV isn’t on, their little minds will be okay.

  15. I so loved this post.

    I grew up with 4 older siblings and 13 acres of land behind the house. We were always in the woods. There was a well-worn path down to a pond where we learned how to skate in the winter (it was too creepy to swim in, but we still played near it in warm weather). In the summer, my sister and I found pieces of scrap metal and rods and intertwined them in branches on either side of the path to make “houses” and we pretended we were grown up neighbors. We rode our bikes on the path and I learned how to run into a tree and not die. In the winter, we used the path as a main sledding trail, but made off-shoots with jumps and sharp turns. Once again, I learned how to hit a tree and not die.

    We were a 10-15 minute walk up a little country road from a huge lake and we spent most of the summer there. I walked myself to swimming lessons there for 5 summers in a row. Once I passed the first level or two, my mother stopped coming to the beach with us. Even when she was there, she just sat in her beach chair and did her knitting. She knew I was essentially a fish and could take care of myself.

    If it was rainy, I was reading a book inside (okay, even when it was sunny, I was reading a book). We often started playing hide and seek when it got dark. We also had board games and cards. We used to use my mother’s supply of buttons to play poker. Of course, we did sometimes watch television, but only on Saturday mornings or, as we got older, in the evenings when the Dukes of Hazzard, the Love Boat, or Dallas was on.

    When I was older, I was at my friend’s house. It was only a 15-minute walk, but she lived in more of a neighborhood so there were other kids around. We were always outside marauding.

    I don’t think I was bored for a single minute of my childhood. I don’t think I’d make it as a kid these days.

    1. Wow, I loved reading about your memories, Leonore! I loved that you leanred how to run into a tree and not die, haha! These are hard lessons but good ones.

      We also had a pond not too far away. When it would freeze over, we’d all go down to ice skate. I remember freezing to death, ice skating, playing hockey–all with not a parent in sight. Then we’d go sledding ALL over the town. We’d grab our sleds and just trek around looking for any hill, we’d walk everywhere (again, with no adults). What I remember most was the adventures we had, like the whole day was ours, we would come up with our own games. My kids just don’t have that (due to where we live mostly).

      And board games! yes, we played Uno cards or chess. It was all we had. Back then cartoons were only on Saturday mornings!

  16. This reminds me so much about my own childhood. Oh yes times have changed.During the Summer holidays a group of us would play by turns in each others’ courtyards, inventing games, learning cycling , renting them from the neighbourhood shop, throwing stones at green mangoes on the trees, inventing games, scraping our knees , losing our footwear because we so loved to roam around barefeet and getting scolded for it when we eventually got home. Tired, bathed in sweat, we were so blissfully happy, just waiting to go out and start all over again, the next day. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. When I think back on our adventures, there was always the scraping of knees and the endless roaming around looking for adventures. Your comment described this perfectly. We’d get so tired and dirty just climbing trees! When we’d finally come back home (after dark) we’d be exhausted. I don’t think kids today have any idea what that’s like, it’s a shame.

  17. Ha! This so true and so scary! Kids don’t want to play outside anymore! I can understand the not having anyone around for miles, but still. We made crap up when we were kids…we didn’t want to stay in side and we were neighborhood hooligans! LOL We would play kick the can for HOURS…even during the day. We also made up games like trash bin tag. We grew up in an apartment complex and trash was collected in 55 gallon drums inside these wooden fenced areas about 6′ x 6′ and we would play tag running around the thing trash area like hamsters on a wheel. We did this for hours, too. Sometimes we even hid inside the barrels! Shocking! Of course this was before we all became germ-o-phobes and learned (after our Mom freaked out) that drinking water from a mosquito larvae infested pond was probably not a good idea…. Yep, did that one, too and I’m living to tell the tale. Although that could explain a whole lot of my issues….

    1. Ha! Oh, yeah, good ol’ kick the can. You are right, we’d just play with whatever we could find lying around the yard. I remember playing chinese jumprope or just swinging on an old tire swing. We didn’t need much to entertain us back then. I think back to the toys I had as a child and I had a fraction of what my kids have today. We were forced to go outside and play with rocks and sticks, or in your case, trash barrels. The stuff we got into!

  18. Yes! Wax lips and candy necklaces from the Ben Franklin store. Playing with Barbies outside. Kick the can. Watching the neighbor boy pee in another neighbor’s lilacs. Running through sprinklers. Riding bikes to the library or the beach. The fun didn’t end with the end of summer either. I used to love playing outside in the winter, because it would be really dark at an early hour while we played in the snow. I used to love how the street light made the snow all sparkly.

    Great post!

    1. Oh yeah, sprinklers. We had this little sprinkler and played around that like we were at a waterpark. Sometimes we’d just use the hose to spray each other. We’d have this huge water fights with the neighbors’ kids, fill up buckets and water guns and just run around like mad. It was awesome. And the snow–we’d put on our snowsuits and spend hours digging in the snow, until our lips turned blue. My kids will go outside in the snow and sled now, so that’s always a good activity.

  19. I love your pictures! I really like the one of your kids in black and white at the bottom of your site. We played outside a lot, and it helped to have three girls down the trail to meet up with. So many good memories of them. I don’t think we had as much freedom as you did, but we made the most of our seven acres to play on.

    1. Thanks, Simple life–I like black and white photos the most, too. Those pics my kids were so young, they were all taken 3 years ago. Now they’re growing up and less likely to go outside.

  20. Like most everybody else, I identify. And remember being outside all the time. Mostly I was at the beach, torturing the cute lifeguards.

    I think though, that it’s not just a shame that kids aren’t ever allowed to do things on their own, but the world will be worse off for it. If you don’t learn to solve problems with your brother or friend, how do you solve ones that the world has?

    1. That’s just it, Elyse. I don’t remember bothering my parents with ANYTHING growing up. Unless I was injured severely or bleeding heavily. Otherwise, we’d kind of have to figure things out on our own, there wasn’t always a parent nearby hovering over us. We were completely out there on our own for a good part of the day and had to deal with challenges using our own wits (god, I wonder how we all survived intact!)

  21. Genius, genius, genius, Darlonica Lake! This has Freshly Pressed stank all over it, if you ask me.

    We were never allowed indoors either, but I don’t think we wanted to be. There were a bazillion other kids in the neighborhood to play with and they were all banished outside as well – that makes the difference. The local church bells rang at 12 (home for lunch) and 5 (home for dinner). That’s all we needed to know.

    1. FP stank? bwahaha! I love it. I appreciate that but we all know it’s about three times longer than their average FP post.

      And yeah, if there were huge crowds or roaming kids already outside, of course we wanted to be out there with them. There was nothing to do inside except bug my mom or help her vacuum.

      By the way, happy happy birthday to you!! 🙂 I love Tar has her own blog, so we can learn all sorts of cool things about your past and see those groovy photos.

  22. I just had this conversation with my son last night. We were all actually outside, having dinner. When we were done he wanted us to play but wife and I wanted to continue sitting at the table drinking wine. I told him he needed to be able to play by himself and that when I was a kid I used to have entire basketball tournaments in my driveway… by myself. He wasn’t too impressed!

    1. Oh, yeah! we had a basketball hoop that was used so much, it crumbled into pieces! I would spend hours out there in our driveway, shooting hoops with the radio on, by myself. Kids just don’t know what to do with themselves unless someone is telling them what to do or think, it’s really sad.

  23. Ah, the good ol’ days, eh? I remember walking both ways to school, in the snow, uphill, doing handstands. Nope, pappy wouldn’t let us walk on our feet like normal kids did. hehe

    You know that whole outside thing is almost dying out. Our kids are grown and they were out more than most kids today, but a LOT less than we were.

    I have a post already in the works about my childhood that you’re gonna like.

    Teaser: How dangerous was your neighborhood?

  24. I’ll notice that when we’re walking the dogs, or out and about – there are no kids anywhere. No parents yelling, “Joooooooooooohhhhhh-nnnyyyyyyy!!!! Diiiiiiiiiiii-nneeeeerrrrrr!!” No kids playing games that interrupt traffic and make everyone mad…

    We’re all doomed.

    1. I used to rollerskate down the middle of this busy street and my crappy metal skates were so noisy I would have no clue there was a line of honking cars behind me. Ah, to be young and oblivious!

  25. This is so true!! We;d ride our bikes down the highway to a state park where we would climb up on the sign, sit, eat candy, listen to Van Halen’s 1984 album, and waved at all the cars going north to Canada on highway 53. It was awesome! I don’t even know how to do that for my kids without worrying they’d get hit by a car, however, they ARE almost 6 and 3, so I’m probably right to worry, yet. Times are definitely different with the advent of the technological age (for everyone,) and the media trying to have us think there is a man around every corner, waiting to diddle our children in some secret underground bomb shelter. Even though we don’t really believe it, who’s really going to take the chance? (Except you! HA!)

    1. I love your memory of eating candy and listening to Van Halen 1984. I remember riding our bikes to the edge of town (we were only maybe 10 years old) and standing on the highway overpass and waving at the cars below to see if anyone would wave back. Ah…the good ol’ days of almost causing a car crash.

      I do kick my kids outside but we happen to live on a 3 acre field with NOTHING around so they can roam all they want in our yard and I won’t have to worry about strange creepy child abductors.

  26. John Erickson

    Wow. I had a schizoid childhood. We lived in a prototypical suburb until I got through fourth grade, so it was typical neighborhood stuff – riding bikes, going to the playground, searching the edge of the “Stop and Sock” for rogue golf balls (which we’d use in the pool), swimming, etc.
    For 5th grade, we moved out to a more rural setting – a strange little area squeezed between two suburbs that were too busy fighting each other in court to incorporate us. There was much less civilisation close by, so the outdoor activities started to slack off. But then, I hit junior high, and my apprenticeship began.
    Does backward crab-walking up your roof to deliver more nails to your father considered “typical outdoor kid activities”? 😉

    1. What did you do with the golf balls in the pool?
      I remember my brothers doing plenty of work for my dad as well. He always had some project or 20 half finished. He would never trust me with a hammer though (smart man).

      When we hit junior high pretty much any and all activity outside came to a stop. We finally got cable and Atari so we all basically became zombies.

      1. John Erickson

        Oh, we’d do silly crap like through a whole bunch of golf balls into the pool, then my sister and I would compete to see who could bring up the most in one breath. Or lob ’em around the backyard. Hey, this was FREE stuff – why else would you slice several multi-dollar balls in half to get the rubber-band bundle or rubber ball inside? And do you know how high a golf ball will bounce, if thrown at hard concrete from a second story window? Neither do I – we lost several that way, before an unoccupied house down the block suddenly sprouted a broken window! (“Who, US? Naw, Mom, must’ve been those bad kids down in the townhouses!” Starts whistling nonchalantly.)
        And of course, there were always bikes – mine with a banana seat and leopard spot custom paint job – reward for something I don’t remember today, but I remember the bike! Who’d believe that 20 years later, I would be back, riding a single-speed Schwinn, while dressed in WW2 uniform? 😀

      2. I think most of our activities involved throwing something out of a window or off a roof of a garage. My brothers were always fascinated with seeing how far they could go before something broke. We broke so many windows in our time! God, my poor Mom. I broke our dining room window when I hit a baseball that went straight through it.

        1. John Erickson

          We were too afraid of the consequences if we broke stuff on the house. So we just battered each other, unintentionally – mostly. I don’t have really clear memories from our first place, but I do remember there wasn’t much stuff built up yet – we were a new housing subdivision. So there were vacant lots and LOTS of construction waste like ends cut off lumber and such. That’s where most of our destructive tendencies went.
          Winter, however, was much more fun with less danger, as we were near an intersection.. That, and we lived through the great blizzard of 1967. I remember that clearly, because we got to climb up on the kitchen counters – a HUGE no-no – and sledded out onto the snow. We had over 7 feet of snow in the back yard, ad had a HUGE network of tunnels. Pity it had to melt – we were QUITE the snow-construction crew! 😀

          near a street corner

  27. I was in a neighborhood the other day seeing a patient. As I walked the long way from my car (I parked in the shade a few doors down), I could hear the ice cream truck cruising toward me. I glanced back over my shoulder and saw him, rolling slower than a geriatric with a flat tire, down the street toward me. As I walked, the music got louder and louder, until he finally crept past me. He reached the corner in front of me and turned down the next street. I looked back and then ahead of him, and there was not a child in sight, on a hot August day. I felt both sad and a little scared. Sad for sentimental reasons, and scared because the whole experience reminded me of some sort of horror movie where everyone is dead or at least zombies. I walked into the patient’s home and saw three of his grandchildren, sitting in front of the TV. I guess I was right about the zombies part.

    1. I heard an ice cream truck recently and was shocked. I really didn’t know they still existed! The sad part is, like you said, the kids are all inside watching TV, so when they hear it coming, by the time they run outside the guy is long gone.

  28. Ah, indeed. My mother locked us out, too. We knew it was time to come home when the street lights came on, or when my dad whistled. This was when I was five. In Philadelphia. No kidding. Nowadays a kid would be picked up by either the cops or a perv if they did that. We played several forms of tag (freeze, TV, etc), cops and robbers/good guys bad guys/cowboys and indians (all the same game with different names) and I got “tied up” and left on the stoop of my friend’s house because I was the only girl and I didn’t really totally get that the rope was invisible. We caught lightning bugs (apparentlly endangered now – damn us) and skinned knees and invented trouble out of nothing. I have scars on my knee from an epic Kick the Can fail. We practiced gymnastics and I now marvel that I could ever do that stuff. The good ol’ days indeed.

    1. Your story about being five years old and outside sounds like my childhood. I remember riding my big wheel down the hill, way out of sight of my house and over to another block and I was about five or six. We managed to stay within a one block radius, but still. FIVE! (I would let my son do that by himself–but he’s almost 10.) I also remember the skinned knees and grass stains on my toughskins. We used to climb trees all the time. Make forts and play huge capture the flag games in a field until dark. Not a single adult anywhere to be found.

      1. Exactly. I shared my story because your post reminded me of it. We’re on the same page, so-to-speak. I find it insane. Then again, I’m sure the moms were peeking out windows up and down the block to get the head count throughout the day. That was back when you had to listen to EVERYBODY’s mom and be respectful. (Lord, I sound like I’m 80.)

  29. When we were kids, we would lie on our backs in the grass and decide what animals the clouds looked like. We’d walk down to the river and throw stones in the water. We’d go to the playground and play on all the apparatus that is banned now because it is too dangerous!

  30. This was great! What memories, I was out of the house like a shot, the minute I woke up …gone. Someone had to hunt me down at the end of the day to come in. Chores? Yeah live a list I will do them (maybe, some days I would rather have an azz whopping). There were so many of us in the neighborhood, we were never bored.

    1. Now that is a sweet memory–Nancy Drew and an apple tree! I seem to remember lots of reading and climbing trees or laying under trees back then. The world was just such a magical place, not a scary place like it is for kids nowadays.

  31. Summer. Endless days of summer. I love ’em. We drag blankets out and seep under the stars. Tree house reading. Even though everyone has grown up. It still makes us feel like kids.Thanks, for spotlighting such sweet memories.

    1. Tree houses! Yeah, how could I forget those? My friends and I once nailed a few old boards to our big crabapple tree so we’d have a place to perch. Then we’d climb up and settle in…it didn’t take much for us to be entertained back then. (course my brothers had a more elaborate tree house and wouldn’t let us girls come in)

  32. You make me think of the mom down the street who used to yell out around 6:00 “Hal, Cal, Jack, Mack and Laddie (the dog)…suppppppperrrrrr”. I think my mother used her call to be sure she had our dinner running on time. We roamed every where…one house had a water cooler…it was better than coke! Another house had a stair step wall we would challenged ourselves to jump off of. Still another friend had a swing hung from a tree branch and we would see who could leap out the furthest. Of course this entailed never ending scabs and bruises. I remember your term “helicopter mom” in a former post. Of course, any self-respecting helicopter mom would keep their kids from getting scabs and bruises.

    1. My best friend down the road had an old tire swing in the front yard and we would spend hours swinging on it and trying to crash INTO the tree (don’t ask me why we did this!) Also lots of jump rope and hopscotch games. Simple stuff. Thanks for sharing your memories, Georgette, I love the ‘better than coke’ one!

  33. Loved this post! I, also, was kicked out of the house every morning with the words, “I don’t want to SEE you until dinner time!” I spent hours exploring the woods alone on the back of my stubborn little Shetland pony, and even more hours cooking up games with the neighborhood (I use that term loosely, as the houses were pretty far apart) kids. I have fond memories of it all and don’t remember even wanting to play inside get much. Luckily, my kids love being outside, too, to the point where I have to stop my 3-yr-old from heading outwage minute he gets up at 6:00 am. And since they’re still little, i have to stay outside and watch them (it’s where I am right now, as a matter of fact). And it’s a pretty good excuse not to keep up with my housework!

    1. Your 3 year old sounds like my son. He was outside (or was begging to go outside) pretty much every minute until he turned nine. Suddenly he’s morphed into a sullen teenager type. He still goes out here and there, maybe rides his scooter…but I have to push him to go!

  34. Just the other day Kiefer told Boo and Radley to go outside. Boo said unless Kiefer moved the cars so he could play basketball, there was nothing to do outside. Thank you for proof that there’s more to do outside than play basketball.

    1. I may have proof, but depending on Boo’s age, he probably doesn’t want to hear it. My son is almost 10 and starts rolling his eyes the second I tell him to go find something to do that doesn’t involve video games or the computer.

  35. Ha, my boyfriend and I talk about the “I’m bored.” syndrome a lot. Luckily, my little one moreso that his teenage and nearing teenage kids, loves to play outside. I have sidewalk chalk (and I let her use it, LOL), balls, frisbees, jump ropes, and all kinds of buckets and shovels for hunting for “stuff”. We also have our little swingset, and Maycee still uses it. She refuses to learn how to ride her bike since I took the training wheels off, though (to her prodding)! But, I trust that will come. However, even with the kids playing outside, I do still have to deal with the “I’m bored.” For us, I believe it has to do with not only electronics, (as Maycee is not really into that), but overstimulation. Kids are used to going, going, going way more than when we were kids, eh? Like you, it was all about exloring on our own, truly playing, not going places in the car and seeing everything, everywhere all of the time! Great post! (I’ve been on hiatus for much of the summer. Glad to be back reading!) XOXO-SWM

    1. I miss the days when my kids played on a swingset! We used to have this giant one in our yard. I suppose my daughter still loves the playground, but it’s more my son. He’s always whining at me “This is soooo boring!” no matter what we do. I can’t wait until he’s a teen! ahhh!

  36. I totally agree with you—the only other time I go outside on a regular basis is to take out the trash. As a kid, summer vacations spelt hell for my stay-at-home mom as she had to solely bear the brunt of my lack-of-activity madness. When my brother came along, it meant some respite for my mom and more fun for me—I revelled in annoying the hell out of him. I used to steal his stuff, make him cry by saying he talked like a girl, and keep switching TV channels to piss him off. Such fun!

    1. Thanks, Russ! That is the best compliment. I would love to do stand-up, if only I didn’t have to actually stand up in front of an audience. It takes some serious nerve to do something like that.

  37. I hand my kids wiffle ball bats and throw em out. Usually it winds up in a jedi battle but whatever, they’re breathing real air. And that’s what camp is for. Meanwhile, i almost titled my blog, I love you, now go away. 😉

      1. John-Paul

        There’s a book about parenting in NZ called “I love you, now go to your room”. Such a good post, and such great pictures.

  38. Darla, you know I am a big fan of your writing. As your words are always honest, straight and simple. But this time more than anything else, let me just tell you that I loved these pictures. You captured the emotions of childhood so beautifully. I am sure you are living your own childhood through your daughters; because that is the only way a person could ever capture such beautiful moments and expressions. I will say it again, now its time to revive your photo blog Darla. Do not let this talent of yours to remain invisible to the outside world.

    1. Thank you! Those photos were some of my favorites for sure. I just might have to get the ol’ Canon out again and start snapping more pictures. My kids are growing up super fast, I know I’ll regret it if I don’t. I might have to dig out my old photo blog again now…

  39. Like you, Darla, I spent most of my youth outdoors. I was a tomboy. My folks probably would have aged faster if they knew about me jumping from one tree branch to another tree’s branch. Or riding a raft over a swampy area in North Syracuse, NY when I didn’t know how to swim. Or riding a friend’s bike with brakes on the handle bars and learning how to stop AFTER I whizzed thru an intersection.
    But, yes, I’d rather have spent my childhood outdoors than transfixed in front of the electronic gadgets (at that time, only the TV and radio). By the way, I should really get outdoors as an adult as well. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. I am amazed that we didn’t get injured MORE often, Judy. I do remember one unfortunate accident where my younger brother was sitting on top of my bike’s handlebars when the handlebars suddenly came off–at the bottom of a steep hill. My brother was covered head to toe in bruises and cuts. My poor parents! And yes, it’s important for us as adults to venture outside more.

  40. Great post, Darla! My kids are outside quite a bit in our backyard. I’ve taken to making them do art projects outside because of the mess, so I tell them anyway. They always get along better outside and I do think it has a calming influence on them. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect as I always hover over them. Nothing like the parentless existence I had outside. Lawn darts included.

    I went to a conference led by an author who spoke on children today having a nature deficiency syndrome that is partially responsible for the rise in depression and ADHD. I pretty much accepted that we are all doomed after hearing him speak.

    1. yay! You’re here! 😀

      I can see why you’d hover. Your kids are still pretty young. My son is very mature for his age and is extremely responsible (unlike I was at his age) so I trust him to be outside in our backyard by himself. Julia? Well, she’s only five so I have my helicopter moments still!

      Hope you’re enjoying your bloggy break! I am shipping out your package today.

      PS buh-buh buh-buh buhhhhhhhhh

  41. You and I had similar childhoods, Darla. We’d be out all day, especially in the summer. We’d have games that fifteen or twenty kids could play, and for hours. Things have definitely changed. When my son was seven or eight, I began to notice that our block became a ghost town in the summer. He’d come back in, like your kids, and complain about being bored. I’d wonder how that could be, until I looked outside and saw an empty street. I think kids are all scheduled these days — soccer, swimming lessons, camp. I guess parents think children need to be told when and how to have fun. It’s too bad, isn’t it?

    1. Yes, it is a ghost town now! I think structure certainly has its place, but it doesn’t have to be a constant thing in a kid’s life. They’ll have more than enough time for that stuff when they’re working full time.

      My son is playing soccer this fall but I’ve tried to cut down on the number of organized sports (he used to do three or four a year and had zero time for much else)

  42. I suppose it’s that outdoors they have to use their imaginations and the internet and games keep their minds so busy that they don’t have time to really develop that. It’s such a shame, really. But I know how it feels – a long period on the ‘net and my own brain seizes up the same way. However I go outside and after a while (once the internal chatter has died down) nature takes its hold on me and imagination returns.

    I was quite ill as a child so I was cossetted and overprotected to such an extent that I didn’t really learn any strategies to look after myself and was rarely allowed to even be on my own. But when I was alone, I’d play in the garden or, when we were on holiday, at the seashore. My favourite thing was to take myself to the back of the garden and play behind a large shrub, where I couldn’t be seen (or so I thought!) And my ‘games’ were always to do with make-belief – I spent hours talking to worms, woodlice (slaters), and other little things.

    1. I also have problems when I’m on the internet too much. My mind almost feels so cluttered, it’s draining to me. I’m a pretty introverted person in general, so I’ve always needed the time to be alone or out in nature to meditate and recharge. I loved reading about your stories playing out in the garden. I used to do the same. I know it sounds corny, but I really was one with nature back then as a child. It was like this magical place to me.

  43. Bring your kids over to my house any day! We have the same problem with lacking kids to play with over here. Parents in my town sign their kids up for VBS, camps, soccer, little league, dance – whatever they can plug them into to keep them out of mom’s hair (a/k/a keeping them “busy”). Alas, my kids’ mom is too cheap for all of that, so in order to get some quiet every now-and-again, I kick them outside. You bet. In the 98 degree heat in the middle of the day. EVERY day. My sanity depends on it.

    They whine every time but eventually find things to do to keep them occupied, and I get to catch up on my blog read in silence.

    Yep, bring ’em over. They’re welcome here to “babysit” my kids any day!! (Your daughter is just lovely. That happy photo needs to be on my fridge.)

  44. But there was never anything to do inside when I was a child, it was all happening in the big out there!

    Do ever wonder what might happen if you sort of, accidentally, locked yourself and your children out of the house for a day?

      1. Of course the mystery of locking yourselves out with a flask of coffee, a good stash of books, paintbox etc, sandwiches, cake, biscuits, cold drinks whatever (the fruit can wait for later . . . ) will just have to be taken on board as a coincidence.

  45. During the school year, mom would shove us outside every day. We had clothes for whatever the weather, so neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow was a valid excuse to stay inside. When we spent our Augusts in Maine, we’d be somewhere around the cove- perhaps on the rocks by the ocean, or perhaps in the ocean. And dinner time was announced by mom ringing a large bell that could be heard a mile away (well, perhaps more like a quarter mile… but we heard it and came running).

      1. Dang – I forgot all about the bell my dad rigged up at our second house, which was on 2 acres of land. We had a small fenced area behind the house for the various dogs which anchored to the back garage (yeah, 2 garages – the original owner drove a 10-wheeler, the back garage being for that), so my dad hung a huge, fire-station-like bell on the fence. Then he rigged up a push-button in the kitchen. We even had codes – Dad was 1 ring, Mom was 2, my sis was 3, I was four, preceded by 1 ring for “come here”, or two rings for “phone call”.
        Have I mentioned I think my dad is a bit OCD? Or (more likely) that my insanity is inherited? 😀

  46. We were constantly outside when I was growing up, too. We formed jump rope clubs, jazzercize clubs, and secret handshake clubs. We rode our bikes around our quiet cul-de-sac and sometimes even rode them all the way to the park (a measly block away). It makes me sad to see our niece, who is growing up in *exactly the same cul-de-sac* being hovered over vigilantly by my sister all the time. Yes, she still goes outside, but she’s under constant supervision, even when she’s just hanging out in the backyard. My sister is paranoid of “dangerous people”, which I get, but it also seems a little extreme at times. (Probably because I don’t have kids of my own.) Jeezum crow– what’s become of this world?

    1. Jump rope was big, Dana. That was all we did. That and climb trees and swing on a tire swing. Things were so much simpler back then. And I love that you used ‘jeezum crow’. Do you think if we use it enough, it’ll catch on??

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