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2018 Jan

Making Memories

What are your favorite childhood memories? Mine are all about playing outside. My dad was in the Navy, so we moved around a lot. But no matter where we lived, the great outdoors was my playground. No matter the season, my brothers, sister, and I always itched to go outside and play.

In winter we’d bundle up in hats, scarves, and mittens before heading out into the wintry cold. Snow was a bonus. I loved building snowmen and throwing snowballs. When one of my brothers threw a snowball too hard and made me cry, I’d rush inside, and my mom would wipe away my tears and fix me a hot chocolate. Soon as I calmed down, I dashed back outside to play—and seek revenge on my brothers.

We made up games and rode our bikes and climbed trees and splashed in mud puddles. We got dirty, wet, and cold—or hot and sweaty, depending on the season. But our eyes shone with excitement, and our young bodies grew strong and resilient. Our minds became sharper, too, and we learned how to share and play fair. The lessons of play combined with the health benefits of being active were far from our minds. We were having fun, and that was all that mattered.

Times were simpler then. Today our homes are filled with gadgets and gizmos. Everywhere you look a screen beckons. Remember the telescreens in George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen-Eighty-Four? Serving as both propaganda-spewing televisions and surveillance cameras, these wall-size screens brainwashed citizens and infiltrated their privacy. Sound familiar?

Our children are growing up in a world unlike the one most of us remember, and how is that going to impact them? We’re already seeing an increase in childhood obesity as children become more sedentary and eat too much junk food. These trends are affecting adults as well. The question becomes what are we going to do about it?

We do have a choice, as parents and as individuals, to follow a healthy pathway or fall into a rut and let bad habits rule our lives and ruin our children’s lives. Sometimes it’s easier to let things happen than try to effect change. It boils down to are you living your life or letting life happen to you?

As 2018 dawns, it’s the perfect time to look honestly at how you and your family are living your lives and figure out ways to make it better. The key is taking baby steps. Don’t try to change old patterns all at once. Try introducing a no-electronics day when everyone disconnects from their phones and screens and focuses on old-fashioned play and conversation. You know, quality family time?

Plan a hike in the winter woods. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and some banana bread and have a winter picnic. Listen to the leaves rustle in the wind and the birds twitter in the trees. Discover the beauty of nature in its dormant state. You might be surprised at how much life you’ll find. Go to a playground and play tag with your kids. Do jumping jacks and play Ring-Around-the-Rosie until you get dizzy and all fall down.

These are the memories your kids will recall when they are older: the time you spent together enjoying each other’s company and exploring the wonders of nature. Make a resolution to include more fun in your lives this year. It’s exactly what we need.

Happy New Year!

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and co-publisher of Tidewater Family and Tidewater Women magazines. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.