Letter from America
By Ellen Neumann
Sullivan County, New York,
July 18th 2012.
Summer has always been my favorite season. As a child growing up in the Catskill Mountains of New York State in the 1960s, I counted the days each June until finally the shrill sound of the last school bell rang, signifying the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. Oh how I loved that day! Two months of “no more pencils, no more books, no more teachers………” [You know the rest!]. Oft times my little sister and I would be shipped off to my grandparents’ farm to spend weeks on end doing pretty much whatever we pleased.
Nana and Pop were both born into large American/Irish families [Sheridan’s and Dillon’s, Lynch’s and Naughton’s], all firm believers in the old adage “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop”. They found countless ways to incorporate us, their little angels, into life on their working farm. If we were not picking berries, we were churning butter. We watched and we learned as Pop helped a calf come into this world; the miracle of life. There were always plenty of little jobs for little people like us on the farm. We loved every moment! We still had plenty of time to play; the 100 acres of farmland, pasture, orchard and barn was our playground. We were busy from morning till night, our imaginations always in high gear. Bored? We did not know the meaning of the word. Oh but how things have changed!
I am now the Nana [although my four darling granddaughters call me Grandma, a name that took me some getting used to]. Their mothers [my daughters] schedule mostly all of their activities as is the way of today’s world. Lessons, lot of lessons! Swimming lessons and riding lessons, art classes and afternoons at the community pool. Play dates and asphalt playgrounds. Does this sound like a fun and full way for kids to spend their summer? Sure it does, except for one thing. That ’thing’ has turned my otherwise active and beautiful little granddaughters into miniature cyber-slugs. Can you guess what is dragging them into sloth and boredom? I will give you a hint: It is the size of a deck of playing cards and more powerful than any government on the planet. It is the almighty I-Pod. Eye-Yi-Yi!!
My little darlings’ age range: 12, 9, 8 & 5 years. Each one of them [including the youngest one] spends countless hours sitting on their little bottoms with those tiny computers in their hands. They stare at the itty-bitty screen, intent on the game they are playing or the music video they are watching. Their fingers remind me of hummingbirds as they skim over the miniscule keyboard with lightning speed. Most times they seem to be in a hypnotic state, unaware and uninterested in their surroundings. If spoken to while they are ‘I-Pod-ing’, they must first snap out of ’trance mode‘ before they acknowledge the person wanting their attention. If they do not respond at all, it may be because their ears are plugged into the tiny machines with microscopic ear-buds.
Yesterday my 12-year old granddaughter asked me, as she lifted her lovely brown eyes up from her nasty little I-Pod for a few seconds ’Grandma, how long till we go back to school?’ I could not believe my ears! Go back to school? Are you kidding me? It is only mid-July, she has been out of school for just a few weeks and she wants to go back already? What was that all about? I wanted to know and I asked her. OK, here it comes, the answer that is so predominant in today’s world “Grandma, I’m BORRRRRRRRRED!” Bored? BORED! She is BORED! As she tells me this, I can hear my own father’s voice in the corners of my mind saying “Bored? I’ll give you bored!” That may not make sense to you but I surely got his message and I love those times when I actually hear Dad’s voice [in my mind of course].
Have we turned our children into little cyber slugs? After all, those I-Pods make fabulous little babysitters, allowing us lots of time to surf the internet, shop on Ebay , tweet or interact with our Facebook following. We are guilty as sin here folks! The answer is really simple: get up off our own bottoms and enjoy the sun, sand, water or whatever summer offers in your neck of the woods. It’s not too late, only mid-July. We can turn this thing around if we make some rules for the kids pertaining to electronics and remember to follow those rules ourselves. If we don’t heed this, it’s gonna be a long and lazy summer. My best advice, most importantly to myself, is “get up off that computer and MOVE!!”
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