My two elementary-aged daughters sit at our kitchen counter munching apples and Ritz crackers. My kids aren’t with their peers at ballet, basketball, piano, art, karate, gymnastics, or swimming. They do take lessons occasionally, but I limit their activities to once a week. For JJ, it’s ballet and for Ani, it’s Lego engineering.
“Can we go outside now, mom?” Ani asks, already grabbing her coat and running out the door.
Our suburban backyard faces other backyards, separated by bike path and a small creek. During the school year, we can be outside for hours and not see or hear another child the entire time. My kids check the trampoline of our next-door neighbor just in case, hoping for a friend to play with.
"Mom, why can’t I have a play date?" Ani asks.
It’s hard to explain over and over.
"No one can play. All your friends are busy in activities and sports. Maybe during the next break."
My kids are each other’s best playmates thankfully.
I watch their legs pump on the swings out and back, out and back; listen to the giggles and screams; feel the warm Colorado sun on my face. Am I a crazy person, the only one in the universe, who thinks it’s better to play than to take so many lessons?
Doubts creep into my mind. No one else is doing it, Melissa, the doubts whisper. Your kids should be in activities. They’re missing out.
Richard Louv’s book title, The Last Child in the Woods, resonates with me today. I feel that we’re the last family in the woods, and it’s lonely.
Where is everybody?
Won’t someone come out and play?
Am I doing the right thing?