Em­brace a healthy diet of sum­mer

The Western Star - - EDITORIAL - Troy Turner

The sum­mer air has changed the neigh­bour­hood and the com­mo­tion of kids play­ing has taken over the streets. That bus­tle has damp­ened over the years, how­ever, and we need to fix it.

I grew up on a small street in a new sub­di­vi­sion in a rel­a­tively busy com­mu­nity. My home­town was once de­fined as the sub­urbs to a city that didn’t ex­ist – an apt de­scrip­tor. My sum­mers were shared be­tween that town and the fish­ing com­mu­nity (with a sprin­kle of tourism) my fa­ther hailed from. It is quaint there, sure, but teem­ing with ac­tiv­ity for youth of the ’70s and ’80s.

Sum­mer was a time for kids – it was our sea­son. And it was glo­ri­ous.

We spent our days out­doors, from the early morn­ings sneak­ing out in our py­ja­mas to catch the early golden glow of the sun to the cooler night air when a lone flash­light was the cov­eted conch of the neigh­bour­hood.

Our street turned into a sports arena of choice most days. Our bats pounded ten­nis balls off the fronts of houses as we did our best im­per­son­ations of ma­jor lea­guers Gary Carter and Tony Fer­nan­dez. We slid into bases made of rock that were laid upon as­phalt. We scuffed the legs of our Sun­day best.

When things got se­ri­ous in the field of play and we joined forces to com­pete against an­other neigh­bour­hood, we headed to the near­est green belt and played on grass. An­kles were rolled on bumpy earth. Hit­ting one over the big rock in cen­tre field was an ac­knowl­edged home run.

On a whim, our street was of­ten turned into a hockey rink, the curbs dou­bling for boards and those big rocks that were bases be­came goal posts. The girls and boys (be­cause “player” had no gen­der) on our street some­times body-checked or were tripped, and got hurt – and got back up again. That nar­row road be­came a foot­ball field, a soc­cer pitch or a bas­ket­ball court with­out the lux­ury of baskets.

It was not only sports, as our street was home to games of all shapes, sizes and rules. We played with skip­ping ropes and we played relay games based on lim­ited knowl­edge of the two tele­vi­sion sta­tions we had.

We swung axes and built forts and hide­outs. We knew the forests around the rail­way tracks in­ti­mately.

We rev­elled in the fun we had when an er­rant piece of dry­wall fell into our laps as we chalked out lines for hop­scotch and World War. When those white lines were washed away, we drew them all over again.

When the sun dipped be­low the hori­zon, we brought out our reper­toire of af­ter-dark ac­tiv­ity. There was a Knock, Knock Gin­ger, the de­light of every parent dis­rupted from late-night TV, and Bar­down, a game so-named be­cause we thought our­selves too cool to play hide-and-seek.

We knew the sched­ules of moms’ voices call­ing from each front step be­cause. They knew we were close by even if we weren’t in sight.

The abun­dance of fun was met with tense times too, of course. When teenagers – the equiv­a­lent of hellish vis­i­tors from an­other planet – walked our neigh­bour­hood, we parted the road and lined the curb like a gaunt­let. When one of us dared to speak, we knew our en­tire ex­is­tence be­came at risk. Thank­fully, those aliens were a kind lot, and we lived to tell about it.

There was also the fight­ing among our­selves. We oft­times came to blows, and our days ended in tears, as we dipped our heads and skulked our way home. These dis­putes hurt our hearts more of­ten than any bruis­ing or abra­sions. The next day, they were for­got­ten, and the heal­ing power of the neigh­bour­hood en­sured in­stant ac­cep­tance for the ag­gres­sor and vic­tim all over again.

We com­mu­ni­cated as a mi­cro­cosm of so­ci­ety with­out know­ing what any of those words meant. We were in­spired by each other, our par­ents and those who led us, through strong ex­am­ple. We func­tioned as a whole and we knew right from wrong, even when we veered to­ward the lat­ter.

I’ve been won­der­ing these past few weeks if these days are gone? Youth are dif­fer­ent now, right? They have dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests, they live by screen time and play dates.

They rely solely on the guid­ance of adults, who feed them a pre­scribed diet of what to think and how to act.

They are lazy, they are awarded medals for just par­tic­i­pat­ing, they can’t cope and they need to be led.

And the more I think about this, the more I re­al­ize how wrong I am.

Kids are kids, and they will con­tinue to be that way as long as we let them.

Now, on the foot­step of their great­est sea­son, is the time to let them be.

Let them come home dirty, with pants ripped open be­cause they played so hard. Let them fig­ure out how they them­selves will sum­mit so­cial ob­sta­cles, and how they will reach their peak in do­ing so.

Let’s send them out the door with no plan in sight, only a di­rec­tive to have fun.

Let’s re­duce the screen time, in­stant-mes­sen­g­ing and video-game re­liance.

If noth­ing else, let’s en­sure they are filled with the taste of the sum­mer air, and the magic it brings.

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