My kids are frolicking! Really!! MY children!
They’re outside, they’re running around, they’re having fun — without colorful plastic toys, without a play structure, without an adult overseeing, supervising, or facilitating…without ME! Just a big backyard, rolling grass, a random hill or two and my kids. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.
Maybe this wouldn’t be such a big deal if I were used to it. But I’m not.
We don’t live in the country. This is just our summer vacation. At home, my kids almost never play outside, and they certainly don’t play outside without me standing there beside them suggesting what to play and showing them exactly how to play it.
When did kids stop knowing how to play? When I was a kid the rule was: come home from school, disappear until dinner, show up for food and go to sleep. My parents never watched us. And they didn’t provide us with any “props” to facilitate our entertainment. Okay, I had one of those geo-domes and a zip line. But I barely used them. What was the point? The neighborhood was my oyster! All of the kids would get together after school and climb trees, play Red Rover, and ride bikes around and around (and around and around and around…) in the wide circular driveway behind my house until my dad, irritated by our repetitive cycling came outside yelling “ENOUGH ALREADY!” That’s the way frolicking was done in the olden days.
This is my fault.
My kids have just never really frolicked. We live in a big city and they play inside where it’s safe. They have video games, a playroom filled with toys, and a jacuzzi in the courtyard that I let them splash around in occasionally. But the big outdoors scares them. The most freedom my kids have enjoyed is riding their bikes in the street. It sounds dangerous, but bike riding in my neighborhood consists of a grown-up, (i.e. “me”) standing in the middle of the street or sitting on the curb watching vigilantly in both directions for any car movement. If I see any car along any road nearby I yell “CAR!” and the kids know to scatter immediately to the side of the road. When the car is gone, I yell “CLEAR!” and they resume their riding. That’s it. And I sit right there the whole time…yelling…”CAR!” “CLEAR!” “CAR!…NO WAIT!…CLEAR!’
It’s unproductive. And quite frankly, it’s boring. Once I invited my neighbors to join me for a little curbside cocktail hour as we watched our kids riding up and down the street and took turns yelling “CAR!” and “CLEAR!” and “PASS THE WINE.” It made it more entertaining. But you can’t really do that everyday, can you?
So you can see why, when I look out my window of our summer house in the mountains and see my kids rolling down the hill in the front yard, chasing each other and “frolicking” outside I am so pleased.
It wasn’t easy to get here. Our first day in the house I opened the back door to the yard and said “Go.” They stood there and looked out at the wide expanse of foreign territory blinking.
“GO!” I tried to shoo them out the door.
“Are you coming with us?”
“Nope. I’m going to be right here in the kitchen cleaning up. I can see you through the window. Go play! Have fun!”
“Are there bears?”
“No there aren’t any bears. Well, there might be, but they’re not interested in coming into our yard while you’re running around.”
“Really.” I hoped I was right. But I wasn’t going to give them the bear excuse to bow out of playing in the yard.
“Scared? Of what? Grass? Leaves? Fresh air?? You’re totally safe. Look how beautiful it is! Go play!” I pointed to the lovely vista of rolling hills behind our house. They were unconvinced.
“What are we supposed to do out there?” I couldn’t believe they would look at this gorgeous yard and not know what to do with it. “You can play catch! You can play tag! You can roll around on it.”
“How do you do that?”
“Roll?” I was beside myself. I had had enough of this. I took them both outside by the hand to the top of a small hill and literally showed them how to roll down a hill.
“WEEEEEEEEE!!!! I added enthusiastic sound effects to emphasize how much fun I was having. “Come on! Try it.”
Livi got down on the grass and rolled. She rolled a little sideways, and partially under a bush but she was laughing like it was the funniest thing she had ever done. Ben, convinced by Livi’s laughter, followed her down. Somehow between all of us rolling, picking buttercups, playing tag, and me throwing a raw hot dog out into the field to convince the kids there was something more interesting to the bears than they are, they started to relax and have fun.
And like a parent watching their child balance on a bicycle for the first time, I let go and slowly backed toward the house. I closed the screen door behind me, came into the kitchen and poured myself a glass of lemonade. I could see through the back window they were having fun. They were happy. They were safe. They were frolicking!
I sat down, took a leisurely swig of my lemonade, and yelled “CLEAR!”