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“If your kids aren’t filthy by the end of the day, you haven’t done your job.”
~Eleanor Wilbur (My Mother)
*Pigs are happiest when they wallow in it.
*It feels cool and squishy between your toes.
*You don’t have to wear shoes to play in it.
*You can play Army soldiers and camouflage your face with it.
*It makes the best pies.
Remember when mud was fun? Long, long ago… before the technology revolution with iphones, ipads, instant movies wherever you go, headphones and music to drown out meaningful conversations with one another and stimulating games we can’t possibly compete with as mere humans… we had mud.
Mud was the glue that held our neighborhood friendships together when we were growing up. Give us a shovel and a hammer from our dads garage and we were going to be creating magic somewhere.
I look around at our society today and it makes me wonder: In our quest to be the perfect mother’s, could it be that we are actually robbing our children out of the best years of their lives? We pride ourselves in their cleanliness, we fill lovingly fill every moment of their day with organized play, organized sports, organized everything…but is this truly in their best interest…or ours?
From the time they wake up, they are racing against the clock. Each minute carefully calculated to make sure they get it all in. It saddens me to think that no where in their day is just totally free.
Don’t get me wrong, I too was a helicopter mom! I circled my babies like a protective lioness as well! However, one regret I don’t have… I did let them play in the mud. I did allow them to run barefooted in the grass. I let them swim in lakes, go fishing, dig in the sand at the beach and ride their bikes in the rain.
I think back to the days when they were very little, maybe three and four years old and I would send them out every morning with their buckets and shovels to dig for dinosaur bones in the garden along the fence. We would read our books on the stegosaurus’ and then off they would go to search for the bones! I knew they would be successful because each night after I put them into bed, I would go out into the garden and bury large dog biscuits for them to find in the morning. My husband thought I was nuts! But hey, they worked tirelessly for hours digging in the garden and I got some housekeeping done while their little imaginations went crazy.
Were they filthy when they came in from digging? You betcha. But nothing a quick bath wouldn’t take care of… oh, and the stories they would tell about the bones they found! They couldn’t have been more excited. Those memories filled with stains and dirt have stayed with me much longer than the carefully starched polo shirt and khaki pants they wore to church each Sunday I assure you.
It is in these moments of getting down and dirty outside which comprised the nuts and bolts of their childhood, that I am most proud of…
So many special memories…The times we had whipped cream fights in the back yard in their bathing suits. The days we spent covered in sidewalk chalk creating ocean odyssey’s. The walks we took collecting fallen leaves in the neighborhood and coming home to make nature books out of waxed paper. These moments are the catalysts that I believe gave them a true foundation and a healthy zest for life. The imaginations of children should be encouraged to grow by using it, not simply by watching someone else’s on a computer screen.
Children should be inspired to read books about adventures, mysteries, inventions and fantasy. When they are emboldened to stretch their abilities, to dream and be creative they don’t need to be stimulated on auto-pilot with gadgets because they have a built-in entertainment center…in their own minds.
All this said, I completely understand the handiness of the machines. My children had game systems too! But the real challenge is balance.
How much time on a computer or phone is too much? That is a question we mommies must each answer on our own. I can only say that I personally wish I had limited their time with technology more…
So here are 5 thoughts I’d like to share, because I’m older, I’ve made my mistakes and “reflection” is a beautiful thing (Age makes us so wise, doesn’t it?):
- God willing, life can be a long-distance sport. By that I mean, childhood by comparison to adulthood is so short. Most of us don’t get the opportunities to play in the mud, build forts, run barefooted, collect leaves and ride bikes in the rain anymore…so give your child the gift of celebrating these precious years and making the most of them before they get out into the real world, don a suit and tie and have to pay taxes!
- When your children are blessed with an “in-house” imagination, they are never lonely. For these lucky few, life has an adventure around every corner. The spawning of a child’s imagination creates a zest for life forever, that is immeasurable.
- When a child is manually stimulated by machines on a constant basis, it dulls their ability to be creative on their own. More time with machines only creates the desire for more time on the machines and it can easily escalate into a self-perpetuating issue.
- Children who have more “free-play” develop better “cognitive, problem-solving skills” as well social skills among their peers. It breaks my heart to witness how poorly equipped some young adults can be in communicating with others. I link this directly to the technology revolution which in some cases actually retards the communication building skills.
- Allowing your children to be bored gives them the motivation to organize a game of kick ball outside with their friends or grab a pole and go fishing down by the neighborhood pond. While these moments may seem like simple acts of playtime, they are actually learning experiences that shape developmental capabilities that prepare them for adulthood.
So in closing mommies, I know it’s easy to pull out your ipad and let little Susie watch “Frozen” for the 400th time while you get dinner ready… I get it. We mommies get so tired and desperately yearn for a little peace and quiet. I’ve been there. All I’m saying is resist as much as you can, the urge to robotize them into submission. Perhaps pull out a bucket of legos? Paints and paper? Her dollhouse? Or better yet… let her help you in the kitchen. Make her your chef! Pretend you both work in a restaurant and throw on a couple of chef hats! Help to nurture her little imagination and bask in every second of it as she grows!
One day, like me, you will reflect back on your life and raising your babies…and this I will promise you: The computer games and movies will come and go. But you will never regret getting on the floor and playing with your children. Don’t make the memories you have to look back on be of them staring like a zombie into a computer screen or television set. Make your memories of them count. Make building and shaping their imaginations a priority. And as hard as it is, put them before your fatigue or personal agenda.
Our children are ours alone to mold, inspire and enjoy for such a short period of time…do your best to go the distance.
And if you have the choice between Machine vs. Mud?
Choose the mud…. every time.
Happy Mothering & God Bless,
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