My boys have a toy room downstairs that is bursting with toys. Actually, it kind of looks like a bomb went off in there…so much stuff everywhere. It’s funny though, they rarely go down there, unless they have friends over. Going through that room and getting rid of stuff has been on my list of things to do for months. It’s crazy to think about the countless toys and gadgets available to our kids these days. There are toys that move, toys that talk and sing, toys that do the coloring for you and anything else you could possibly imagine. I remember reading classic books like Little House on the Prairie and Little Women as a young girl and being struck by how little they had to entertain themselves – a homemade doll, maybe a ball. An orange for Christmas was the greatest present in the world. I’ve thought to myself, “How did they do it?! How did they ever get anything done without something to entertain their kids?”
For that matter, what did I do as a kid?! I was blessed with plenty, but technology wasn’t a thing, not really. My parents didn’t have a cell phone. I remember when my dad got a pager. Does anyone remember those?! It was the coolest thing. Someone could notify him when they wanted to talk to him, but that’s it. Just a notification! We had a bulky desk computer that we all shared in order to send e-mails or play the occasional computer game. We didn’t have Netflix or Disney Plus. No, we watched whatever we could rent from Blockbuster or borrow from the library. And we would watch the same movie over and over and over again. I spent most of my childhood outside playing make-believe. My sisters and I would pretend we were runaways and had to survive in the wild. We would make-believe we were indians. Or we would play prince and princess, which was a little challenging, since there were four of us girls before any of our brothers were born. I would usually end up telling one of my sisters that they had to be the prince or I would threaten to quit the game (terrible I know! I totally feel bad about it now.) We had amazing imaginations.
Writing all of this makes me feel old, but it really wasn’t that long ago. It’s incredible, and a little scary, how much the world has changed already in my lifetime. I can relate now with a story about my great grandfather. My dad asked him how come he wouldn’t use the internet? His response was, “Son, when I was your age, I plowed a field behind a mule, and now there’s tractors bigger than my house that’ll pull 40 plows at the same time. I drove a horse and buggy and now there’s jet airplanes. Son, I’m done with technology!” I feel like I’m constantly struggling to find a balance between two worlds. There’s a part of me that would like to get a flip phone, buy some acreage and run away from social media and the internet. But the other part of me sees the value that I do get from it all. I have endless resources to learn about anything I could ever want to know; I’m able to access tons of free workouts and recipes; I’m able to stay connected with people in a way that has never been possible before, and so on and so on. There is a lot of good to be had. But then again, there is a lot of everything to be had. I would like to show my kids how they can use these resources to their advantage, but not be used by them. I’d like for my family to spend less time invested in the world-wide web and more time immersed in the real world.
All of this has been running through my head since yesterday afternoon, as I watched my kids play outside. Gary had managed to get the water spicket turned on and turned the dirt pathway into a mud bath. He and Marion were digging in it with their hands and a couple of plastic spoons, mud all over their mostly naked little bodies. My boys are happiest when they are covered in mud and playing in water. It’s such a simple thing, but as the saying goes, greatness lies in simplicity.
I have a favorite memory from my early childhood. We lived in a pretty rough neighborhood, although I had no idea as a kid. There were always sirens going up and down our street and I remember hearing the neighbors yelling at each other. But childhood was bliss. On the side of our house, in between our house and the neighbor’s was a dirt walkway. I remember one summer we turned the hose on and completely drenched that spot. We got our bathing suits on and took turns sliding across the mud on our stomachs. It was so. much. fun! I still remember the feeling.
Dirt has healing power too. Before I met Kelly, I was dating a guy that I was sure I was going to marry. It didn’t work out, obviously, and I was devastated when he broke up with me. It was such a difficult time in my life\e. One of the things that helped me turn a corner was gardening. I remember sitting in my room feeling depressed and my brother was going out to plant some flowers in the front yard. I decided to go help him. Digging with my hands and feeling the cool earth grounded me and began to heal me from the inside. It’s a powerful thing to physically connect with people and with the earth.
We need more of that today. Less toys that make noise. Less distractions. More connection with the earth and the people around us. More time in the mud.