I have wanted to write for the Cyberwise Blog for some time now. I greatly admire their work and as a Parent Coach, I often refer to Diana Graber and her writing to assist parents with the tech challenges they face with their kids.
Admittedly, I am no expert on the nuances of keeping our kids safe from the overuse or misuse of technology; but I do know how to build strong relationships between parents and children as a means to keep them safe. So for the purposes of this blog post, I decided to add an alternate invitation to parents. One not resting in the use of technology at all, but one sitting in the value of physical, joy filled play.
Here in Hawaii, I live near a public golf course that many local residents frequent for daily walks. It’s a wonderfully organic park, not overly manicured and home to a fair sized population of wild chickens and roosters.
Many folks will empty bags of stale bread out onto the parking lot pavement and then watch the feeding frenzy happen, as these chickens are kept fat and happy. Occasionally there is a dog pursuing a stray chicken, most often it’s at the end of the owner’s lead. The only other natural “prey” that these chickens have to be concerned with is children.
Recently, while walking up at the park, I witnessed a dad with his young family engaging the wild chickens. They were not dumping stale bread for a feeding frenzy; but rather chasing after them. The young daughter around the age of 6, and her two younger brothers, around 5 and 3 were running, chasing and screaming in delight while in active pursuit of chickens. The dad stood off in the distance watching the kids burn off some energy and gave them plenty of space to do so. (My first thought at this scene was quite maternal. I thought the kids were likely to get Ukus if they caught one of the chickens. Uku is the Hawaiian word for jumping flea or lice). It took me a minute to process the beauty of what I had just witnessed and I continued on my walk with a smile on my face, reflecting on how much fun they were all having. As I was finishing my walk I had to circle back to the family to exit the park. This time the scene had shifted a bit and the kids were standing off to the side, as the dad was now in hot pursuit of the chickens himself. The kids were wild with delight as they cheered him on. He soon disappeared into the cavernous bushes where the fowl had now retreated, and the kids ran screaming after him.
The chicken population was in an uproar; they were clucking up a storm and the roosters were crowing as if their world was coming to a swift end. The kid’s laughter was intoxicating and I left the park with an even bigger grin on my face as I reflected on how happy that dad had made his kids that afternoon.
So much of parenting is about meeting deadlines, carrying out tasks, fulfilling obligations and spending time on screens. When was the last time you “chased chickens in the park” with your kids? Is there an opportunity for simple play in your day that you are missing? Can you put down your social media or step away from your laptop to carve out some playtime for just you and your children. The joy and laughter shared will no doubt carry you all through the inevitable challenges to come and the memories you create will bring smiles for years to come. So I invite you to take stock in your time priorities and look for opportunities to connect with your kids. They may not remember what play you actually engaged in but they will certainly remember how you made them feel… important, valued and loved. No screen can provide this for them or for you!