To my daughter: My childhood will not be your childhood.

Let me tell you, Dan and I have had a rough couple of months. We decided that we needed a day to reconnect and come up for air from all of the stresses of life as of late. I suggested that we have a day date — free from any distractions like the phone or the Xbox. After dropping PJ off to spend the day with her grandma, we wound up in my old hometown of Maumee. Since we were strapped for cash, a day at Sidecut Park was the most affordable choice. It was a nice way to disconnect from the rest of the world and unwind for a bit.

We walked along the riverside for a bit while taking in the fresh air and the wildlife. There weren’t many people around since it wasn’t exactly picnic weather. A few fishermen here and there, but the place was mostly deserted. This allowed us to see more deer and other animals in the area than usual. It was maybe 40 degrees outside but after all of the snow and slush, I was happy to take it.

Something happened that day that made me think.

Before we headed towards town for some more wandering (and some pizza), I went towards the river to skip some rocks. It was something I did during camping trips as a child, and it kept me occupied for a fair amount of time. Even that day, we spent about 30 minutes just throwing rocks into the river.

Then Dan confesses to me that he has never ever skipped rocks before. Like, ever.

I thought, where the heck was he when I was growing up? I’ve never heard of anyone who hasn’t done this already (in this area, anyway.)

sidecut-park-maumee-toledo-ohio
The Maumee River at Sidecut Park.

It was interesting trying to teach a 26-year-old the art of finding the perfect rock to throw along with the techniques I used to get the rock to glide across the river. I felt like this was something that he should have learned a long time ago as if it were a rite of passage in childhood that he had somehow missed. After that, I immediately began to think of PJ. Would she be able to have the same kinds of joyful memories that I had growing up?

Obviously, my childhood will not be her own. She will have different experiences growing up because the world that she was born in is already completely different from the one I was born into. Compared to today, there was a noticeable lack of technology in the house when I was younger. I played Mario Kart on the Gamecube quite a bit, but I also had a healthy amount of time to spend outside with friends in the neighborhood. My sister and I didn’t get our first cell phones until after middle school. And I’m sure even back then, as the internet began to blossom, people were starting to become concerned with the excessive amounts of exposure towards technology that kids were getting.

But would it ever get to the point where we will forget the times where kids were able to have fun and grow up without it? Would there be more instances where I would be trying to teach a young adult an old-school time killer from my youth like Duck, Duck, Goose?

I mean, seriously! The news lately also seems to reflect this thought — the toy industry is struggling lately. Even the industry giant Toys R’ Us has filed bankruptcy and will be forced to shut down their remaining retail locations soon as a result of the changing times.

green-rectangular-toy-gray-boat-toy-gray-shovel-toy-and-green-car-toy-on-top-of-brown-leather-surface
I wonder what will happen to Barbies and Legos in the future? Many toys today are already integrated with some kind of tech to keep up.

Look, I’m totally guilty of allowing PJ to watch Sesame Street on the TV while I try to hurry and get some work done. If I’m busy, I need something quick and easily available to entertain her while I take care of things. But I would hate to have her think the main form of entertainment only exists behind a screen or a tablet. This may make me seem like a horrible parent on the surface, but I want PJ to be bored. Bored out of her mind at times. I will leave her alone to play with her lifeless, boring looking toys and blocks for a while.

Now hear me out on this one.

Boredom is uncomfortable to deal with (even for adults!). However, it can foster innovation and creativity if we are allowed to simply explore the world around us. I believe the hyper-awareness of everyone’s actions on social media has made my generation the most paranoid group of parents to come yet, and this has made us constantly worried about others thoughts and judgments to our own child-rearing methods.

Of course, my child should be protected from any hazards I see around us, but I want her to learn how to create and build things. Maybe when she is older, we can try building a birdhouse together, or figure out how to grow veggies and other plants in our backyard.

PJ is not going to be able to experience everything that I did as a child, but I am going to make sure she is able to learn and play in this world as much as she can before she gets sucked into adulthood. I want her to make mud-pies and play with worms. I want her to be able to play in a sandbox and learn how it reacts to water and pressure to create sand castles. I want to teach her how to skip rocks across the water like a pro. I can’t wait to take her outside to play in the park, spend a day at the zoo, and even take her on a camping trip of our own.

Whether she is on a tablet or just existing IRL, the thing I want her to do most is to actively explore and learn about the world around her. Because it is going to be very different from mine. And hopefully one day, she can help me navigate the changes, too.

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