Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year – when Daylight Savings Time begins again and our clocks spring forward. I am not near smart enough to understand how or why it is supposed to work, but I do not have to understand it to appreciate getting home with daylight to spare. There are some drawbacks, of course, like “losing” an hour of sleep, but the most concerning for me as superintendent is sunrise being about 7:45 A.M. next week. Consequently, we will have a lot more students going to school in the dark, so please keep an eye out for them. They certainly do not keep an eye out for you, so always expect them to also spring forward when you least expect it.
Fewer and fewer kids seem to be springing anywhere nowadays, however, and that is unfortunate. As spring bursts forth, kids should be choking the streets and parks everywhere. In our day and age, however, kids no longer get a chance to wander. Many of us grew up in an era when we were told to be home before the streetlights come on. That sort of world is unimaginable to many parents, because they never had the opportunity to wander either. As a result, we have whole generations of children who have never had no particular place to go. Many never leave the house without an adult-organized activity and a fully supplied backpack.
I must confess that I did this as a parent in some measure. We did not allow our children to roam much, either. Our reasons were the same as many parents’ reasons today. The world is not a safe place anymore – or so we decided. I have been told that those perceptions are false, that our world is safer than ever, statistically speaking. Awareness is the difference, for we now hear about every incident and every accident. For example, my phone receives every single “Amber Alert” that is issued in the state of Oklahoma. With hundreds of thousands of children in our state and the infinite number of dangers, I would think our phones would be blowing up every day. In the last year, I have received a grand total of 5 Amber Alerts. Maybe our world is safer than we think.
If I could restore anything to our nation’s children, it would be the gift of aimless, wandering play. Leaving the house without a plan and without supplies. Drinking from water hoses when thirsty. Trolling the nearest friend’s house when hungry. Scraping knees and elbows. Making games out of what’s available and picking teams from whoever shows up. Getting caught in the cold or the rain or the heat unprepared – and discovering that they will survive!
Before I was too nostalgic, I must confess that some of those days were less fun than I like to remember. Bullying was a lot more prevalent, and we spent a lot of time avoiding fights or finishing them. We figured it out, however, so I still wish kids had a chance to just wander around more. Modern parents, however, deal with and master issues that did not even exist when my kids were in school. Everything has sprung forward lightyears, and I am awed how this generation of parents manages it all.
Maybe technology can help kids regain a sense of freedom. When I was a kid, Mom literally had no idea where I was, but modern parents can know exactly where their children are 24/7. I have a theory that technology is shrinking the world so much that everyone essentially lives in a very small town, where you know every detail about your kids’ activities. As this happens, and parents feel safer and more confident about their children wandering around, maybe we can see more kids outside. Walking to school, riding bikes, and just hanging out in the beautiful outdoors. Please be careful, however, because they frequently spring forward when you least expect them to, and please pray for their safety this second Sunday of the month.