The Doctor Made a Good Childhood

Parents strive to give their children the best, safest childhood possible. However, sometimes it's easy to forget the need for play.

“Play is the highest form of research.”

―Albert Einstein

Last week I wrote about something that “scared the pants off” my physician-dad. This week I saw something that had a similar influence on me.

Several facts about our children have me worried: Just “13% of children walk to school every day,” and “only 6% of kids age 9-13 play outside on their own every week,” and “the crime rate today is what it was in 1963.” Our youth are safer, but less active.

These numbers come via a real eye-opening piece in the New York Post, The Media is Making Parents Hysterical, from author Lenore Skenazy. She blogs, very sensibly, at Freerangekids.com with the helpful tagline: “How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry).” No easy task these days. Her goal is to “give our kids a childhood.”

Her “commonsense approach to parenting in these overprotective times” makes me think that my dad was a better parent then he gets credit for in our family. Thereby again employing my father’s example to serve as a happiness guide for his physician-colleagues today and for the rest of us.

My father gave me and my siblings a contented childhood—and the guy wasn’t even around that much. I remember that we all walked to school (getting a ride from my dad, especially if we were late, was dicey) and we all played outside everyday (“you kids aren’t hanging around the house” was his rule in the summertime).

Of all the things for which I offer gratitude to my father, best is that, even while struck by tragedy, I appreciate him for giving me a “happy childhood.”

As a father myself, I see the problems that Skenazy points out. The challenge to me is: “too much technology, not enough time with the kids.” It’s something I work at constantly with my two children and I have hope for them and me.

To close things out, here are some thoughtful quotes on childhood:

• “For children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

—Fred Rogers

• “There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.”

—Graham Greene

• “Childhood is a short season.”

—Helen Hayes

• “The happy childhood is hardly worth your while.”

—Frank McCourt

• “Growing up is a terribly hard thing to do. It is much easier to skip it and go from one childhood to another.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald

• “Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”

―Dr. Seuss

• “Kids don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”

—Jim Henson

• “Anybody who has survived childhood has enough information about life to last the rest of their days.”

―Flannery O'Connor

• “I had a wonderful childhood, which is tough because it's hard to adjust to a miserable adulthood.”

—Larry David

• “We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it.”

—George Eliot