I was recently driving home with several of my kids our van when, as I passed through a part of our community about 8 miles from our home in the woods, it struck me as odd that although I was in the “busy” part of town, there were no children to be seen. I asked my kids if they found it odd as well. They hadn’t even noticed it until I brought it to their attention, perhaps because it’s been that way their whole lives.
I told them that when I was young, a motorist could rarely travel the length of a football field in a neighborhood without seeing gaggles of kids running about, either in yards or right out there on the blacktop. Kids were typically either in school or, if they had off on a particular day or it was the weekend, outside playing. I’m pretty sure most kids were running out their front or back doors even as they swallowed their last bit of Cheerios or Wheaties, perhaps pausing just long enough at the table to guzzle down the milk in the bottoms of their bowls.
After that, they’d only go back in if they needed to use the bathroom or if they were called in for lunch or supper. Once the necessary meals were consumed, they headed right back out until the street lights came on, then it was time to head in for the night, so they could do it all again the next day.
The sudden realization that I wasn’t seeing kids outdoors in our town (aside from a few here or there, at the local park) prompted me to begin consciously looking for kids as I passed other cars in traffic. I was saddened when I discovered that most cars contained only adults, and the adults looked rather angry or sad, to boot. In fact, my youngest son, who had begun glancing at passing cars with me, said, “Mum, why do all the other drivers look so miserable?”
I didn’t have an answer other than to say that I think many people have forgotten the joy of living because they’ve wandered far from God or have been beaten down by the challenges life brings.
What about the kids though? Where are they? Why don’t we see them riding bikes or skateboards like we used to? Why are there no little girls on front porches, playing house or boys building forts or sitting next to their dads while they change the oil in their cars? I’d settle for girls sitting next to their dads, changing oil and boys playing make believe as well. I’d just be happy if I could see children outdoors, having fun.
My stomach wound itself into a knot as I considered the alternative. I imagined houses upon houses filled with children of all ages, looking down at cell phones or TVs or computer screens. I imagine hundreds of thousands of kids posting selfies on Instagram and scrolling Facebook to read the latest gossip about their schoolmates.
I think back to a time when the empty lot at the end of my childhood street was teeming with kids who would line up every day to choose teams for pick-up Wiffle ball games. After that, we’d play street hockey, roller-skate in someone’s garage, then head out for hours on our bikes or play neighborhood-wide games of Catch One, Catch All until dark. Sometimes, like on days when it rained, we gather on someone’s porch. If we were lucky, the mom of the house would bring us out some cookies and drinks.
We put on plays in backyards, swam at the community pool and spent countless hours at the community baseball field. We were visible in our community because we were often outdoors. If a traveler came through our town, it would be far more challenging to find a road where there were no children than to find a single one playing outside.
I remember the song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” I also remember that Mother Teresa often said children are like flowers – we can never have too many.
I wonder: Where have all the children gone? I miss seeing them.
Writer Bio: Judy Dudich
Judy Dudich resides in the beautiful woods of Pennsylvania, where 24 acres of land and a home-office provide the perfect setting for her children’s home-education and her own homesteading and business ventures. Life is full of blessings (and challenges!) for Judy, as a wife, mother of 10 and Grammy to six. She is a published author, whose book, “I Surrender/A Study Guide for Women” continues to encourage and support others in Christian family lifestyles throughout the world. Judy has also previously worked in the online speaking circuit. Her passion for permaculture, re-purposing, foraging and organic gardening fills her days with learning and adventure that she loves to share.