This past summer I had the pleasure of nannying for three awesome kids, I learned a lot from them, and was taken back to what it was like growing up with my siblings at that age. One big difference I did notice was the dependence on screens and technology during their downtime. As a nanny, I dragged them outdoors, encouraged them to play in the dirt, ride their bikes, play with neighbors, but there were times it was easiest to turn to ipads and phones for entertainment. I was overcome with a strong sense of loss of childhood, not just for them, but for this generation as a whole. The list of things I learned being forced to entertain myself as a child growing up without technology is ever growing.
1. I learned how to get along with my siblings.
This goes further than just playing with my siblings, but into how I developed with co-workers and friends growing up as well. I learned how to compromise with others, and how to make the best out of a situation I didn’t see going my way. Making up rules for a game with 4 other people was no easy task, there was a lot of arguing, a lot of stomping away into a corner by ourselves. At the end of the day (and it usually was) the lack of intervening from adults taught us to how to become decision makers, it ruled out the leader and we all fell into our roles for the sake of playing the game.
2. I learned how to be creative.
Growing up with no cut out rules or strict schedules allowed us to explore our creativity in a world that felt like our own. My sisters and I would set out early in the afternoon often to find a new tree to climb or explore the woods in our backyard. Our only limit was the stone wall separating us from the neighbors, which at times we would dare each other to hop over. My favorite memory was building fairy houses in our backyard, I’m not sure who taught us this but we spent hours in silence perfecting our twig-like structures. Often staying out until dusk, we didn’t have anyone creating characters or scenarios for us, just a group of kids and their imaginations at work.
3. I didn’t worry about getting dirty.
This sounds like a simple part of childhood but I think it taught me a lot more than just how to get back up after falling down in the dirt. Kids and parents alike are so concerned about scrapes and cuts, and while I agree there should be some degree of supervision (perhaps more than we had growing up), I can appreciate all the times we were left to fend for ourselves. Falling out of a tree? No problem. Lost in the woods? Better find your way out by dinner time. We were never worried about our parents coming to rescue us, we had developed a sense of problem solving ourselves at that age. We knew if we were in real trouble there would most likely be an adult at our rescue, but I honestly do not ever remember any fear of falling down or getting hurt crossing my mind. I had my big sister, chances are she knew how to respond to emergencies as a first grader?
4. I was never bored.
This sounds like a stretch, but I do not ever remember claiming boredom as a child. Even when it was my sister who was allowed to have friends over, I would spend hours coming up with ideas on how to annoy them. Like, that was my entertainment for the day. Even as an adult I rarely find myself bored, but rather making the most of my free time and enjoying the company of people I am lucky enough to have around.