I recently witnessed two things and read an article that lead me to the conclusion that our kids are losing their childhood way too soon.
This past Saturday, my son tried out for one of the select baseball teams in our area, the New Berlin (Wis.) Magic. They start at U8, but Kevin was actually trying out for the U9 team (under age 9). My son isn’t the best athlete in the world, but he isn’t the worst by any means, either. I don’t remember picking up a bat until I was 10, let alone play on an organized team with uniforms. A lot has changed in 30 years! These 8 1/2 year olds came with spikes, baseball pants, jerseys and bags with not one, but two or three of their own bats! It was like watching a bunch of semi-pros playing the game. Believe me, they were quite good.
My son, who has trouble catching a fly ball without it hitting him in the face, didn’t have a chance to make the team. I was proud that he had the guts to try out and go through the process. Two things came to mind after the tryout. Whatever happened to the neighborhood park pick-up games where you got together at a local playground, chose sides, and played until it got dark? Second, what kind of dad am I to have a son who can’t catch a fly ball clean at 8 1/2?
On Sunday, we went to a family reunion. We stopped in a park near Madison, Wis. The park had two playgrounds. The “old fashioned” playground consisted of slides, tire swings, sand boxes, see-saws and jungle gyms. There was this “modern” playground right next to it. It was a cluster of plastic buildings designed to look like a town. One was a “bank,” and when you stepped inside, an automated voice said “Another day, another dollar” and “The streets aren’t paved with gold!” Another building is a “hair salon.” Inside is a poster showing beauty products, identifiable by brand name. When you walk in the building, it makes the sound of what I think is supposed to be a hair dryer. Outside is a fake ATM machine. The new, modern playground treats the kids like little consumers and leaves little to the imagination! I noticed most of the kids seemed to be playing in the old fashioned playground.
Last, I read an interesting story in USA Today last week. It highlighted Jan Silva, the five year old “future of tennis.” That’s right, a five year old! Last August his family sold their house and two cars in California and moved to France so Jan would live, eat, breathe, and sleep tennis at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy near Paris. Patrick Mouratoglou, Jan’s instructor, said this in the article: “I’m just saying he’s different. Jan has unbelievable talent and his parents are focused. Jan’s parents have a goal. I have a goal. The kid has the same goal. We work in the same direction; it’s just a matter of time.”
When I was five years old, I was worried about keeping my pants clean and when my next nap would be!
I may be a marketer, but I’ll be keeping track of this kid as a parent. I wonder if he will end up like Tiger Woods or Todd Marinovich? Only time will tell.
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Comments expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinions of Johnson Direct LLC.