A legendary summer

Hot dogs sizzle on a grill top breathing a cloud of grease scented smoke into the air. A lawn mower growls in the distance like a steady bass line carrying the melody of children’s gleeful laughter.  The wind rustles the leaves of the trees overhead and birds scatter into the warm glow of the horizon beyond. Summertime, and the livin’s easy.

As a kid, my summers were spent wading though ditches, catching water snakes and crawdads. We rode our bicycles through town like a posse of outlaws. We ate gas station nachos and told fart jokes. We drank from hoses and slept on trampolines and watched the stars crawl slowly overhead, wondering lazily which one would someday belong to us. Summertime was the stuff of legends. I desperately want my children to have the same legendary summers. They however, want nothing more than to stare into the screen of their tablets. Or at least that’s what I thought…

I came home from work last night to what felt like the first real day of summer and sunshine after over a week of rain and gloom. My children sat in the darkness of the house with the blinds closed, the TV blaring, and their eyes firmly glued to games on their tablets. I immediately opened the blinds, turned off their devices and kicked them outside. They griped to me that that it was boring outside and that’s when it hit me; the stuff of legendary summers is built upon the foundation of fighting boredom.

I was remembering my summers with rose colored glasses, I realized. When I was a kid, I was bored all summer long and that’s exactly what made them so great. We had to use our imaginations in order to escape the boredom. We live in a different age with technology being such a pervasive element of our lives but all the ingredients for a legendary summer still exist. The equation is something like (time + freedom + boredom = fun). My kids have the time and the freedom but the devices are subtracting the boredom and the results are something that is quite the opposite of a legendary summer.

So, in an act of benevolent authoritarianism, I took my children’s tablets away from them. I explained to them my reasoning and told them about my summers when I was a kid. I fully expected them to erupt in tears and protest but instead they were totally psyched.

“Yeah Dad, that sound’s way better than playing stupid games on our tablets.” My oldest son said.

Just like that, the matter was settled. The times may have changed but kids are still kids and they will use whatever tools are at their disposal to engage with their lives. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. The tablet is the fish. This summer, I’m putting some fishing rods in my kid’s hands and we are going to pursue that great legendary summer.