Yesterday I bundled the still-sick babies into the stroller and took all four sniffling kids out for a long walk in the fresh air. We found this beauty down the back lane to the forest preserve ponds. Forsythia is my favorite spring bloom. I love how it bursts into jubilant sunny sprays when most scenery is still gray and dreary.
We live in a semi-rural area surrounded by woods and farms. Our neighborhood has larger lots with patches of forest preserve land, marshes, creeks, and ponds intermixed. Deer, coyotes, foxes, possums, raccoons, and smaller wildlife hide out in the timber and prairies. Yesterday, though, the wildlife was less dramatic but very plentiful. After five months of no worms the earthworm hordes suddenly emerged by the hundreds. Slugs, too. In other words, little kid heaven. Everyone except the baby got to hold earthworms but I denied the request to keep them as pets. When I pulled out the phone to catch a picture of the first worm Jenny helpfully leaned in and told the worm “Cheeeeeeese!” All this led to an afternoon rabbit trail on Google learning about earthworm habits and slug identification. We also heard the first mourning dove of the year. We couldn’t spot it so I showed the kids pictures of one at lunch.
I know it’s a standard gripe now – “O tempora! O mores! O technology!” – and I spend my fair share of hours in front of a screen. However, we’re also watching the effects of excessive technology in our new neighborhood and they’re dramatic. Earlier this week I read another doom-and-gloom article stating that the average child aged 8-18 now spends 1/3 of their hours sleeping, 1/3 of their hours in school, and 1/3 of their time in front of a screen. I’d have rolled my eyes except that, sadly, it’s true here. You would never guess that half the houses in our neighborhood have children in them. We try to get our kids outside daily, often a couple times a day. We’re still limited by the fact that they’re not old yet enough to go outside without our supervision. Whenever the weather allows we’re out with bikes and scooters on the driveway, taking walks, playing baseball in the yard, hitting a park, or hiking nearby trails. In our nine months in this home I have literally never seen any children other than ours out on a walk with their parents. I didn’t even realize any small children lived in several of the houses near us until other neighbors told me. Most have large yards and woods. Many have trampolines, long driveways perfect for bikes, and elaborate swing sets. A few even have pools. And yet, it’s a ghost town out there.
The Man and I recently slipped out for an evening hour at a coffee shop together. Three teen girls sat at a table near us sharing a delicious-looking chocolate fondue in the cozy shop. It looked like it would have been so much fun as a teen…except that two spent the entire time staring at their phones. The third tried to strike up a conversation but all they talked about were various friends being bullied on social media (that, and the need to diet, despite all being Size 0 or 2 from the look of them). They barely cracked a smile and almost never looked at one another. After an hour they shuffled out. We left feeling so sorry for those poor glum girls and the pressures they face, and a bit depressed ourselves. So, on that cheery note, get outside with your kids! Teach them to interact with the world without an electronic device always in hand. Look at some slugs! (On second thought, perhaps that’s not the best motiviation…).