Summer vacation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 17, 2003

Unlike my generation, kids today need constant stimulation, it seems. Whether it’s toys, television, video games, what have you. They feel they have to be – indeed, are entitled to be – entertained at all times, with no or little effort on their part.

It’s frustrating for them, and for their parents, too.

Despite our struggles to comprehend it, my wife and I tried for so long to accommodate this need, putting aside our own chores to help entertain the kids, but they are never fully satisfied. And meanwhile, the dishes and laundry pile up and the grass and weeds continue to grow.

Email newsletter signup

I don’t really know for sure whether kids themselves are any different than we were as kids. We had to be entertained, too, it just seems that we were so much more easily entertained and we were capable of doing it on our own with limited parental involvement and no electronic gadgetry.

When I was a kid in the summer, I’d have cereal in the morning and then be gone most of the day – riding bikes, throwing rocks, digging up worms, fishing, playing ball – anything to pass the time. Of course, that required a lot of unsupervised time, something parents can ill afford to allow these days – there’s simply too much bad, too easily had out there for kids to get into.

Still kids today, I think, need to learn how to do nothing.

My kids got a crash course in this last week when we went on vacation courtesy of my sister who recently bought a house on Seabrook Island, S.C.

Seabrook’s a beautiful, ritzy, gated island about 20 miles south of Charleston in the heart of the Low Country. The palm trees, live oaks with Spanish moss and white beaches are bewitching.

We had stopped at the Piggly Wiggly on the way in to stock up on groceries because, we were warned, there was nothing on the island to buy. The warning was accurate. There is nothing commercial about Seabrook Island. A beach, a golf course, a swimming pool, that’s it.

My sister had only basic cable and none of the six channels that came in were of any interest to our kids.

I loved it. I woke up with the sun each day and jogged or biked, cooked breakfast, and laid around the house reading. We went to the beach about two each afternoon when the tide came in and the waves were big, boogie boarded until about 6, came home, cooked dinner and ate it and I was asleep each night before 9. We arrived on Wednesday; the kids were ready come home on Thursday. They walked around the house all day grumbling about how bored they were, how stupid South Carolina was.

Slowly, however, they adapted. We drove to St. John’s to the Family Dollar and picked up some art supplies. The kids discovered the joys of a low-tech lifestyle, entertaining themselves out of necessity by drawing pictures, playing with their toys, riding bikes, treating their sunburns, scratching their mosquito bites, and chasing the frogs that inhabited the porches.

The house was quiet with no TV blaring. We ate dinner each night as a family around the table and talked. I finished a book – probably the first in six months. By Sunday morning, though, we were ready to return to civilization.

I think we all brought back from Seabrook Island a greater appreciation of spending time together and doing nothing. But it didn’t last. Within days, PlayStation, X-box and Charter Communications had us back in their evil clutches.

But that’s OK. At least for a brief moment, we were different, we were the family we always wanted to be and with any luck we’ll be able to recapture that from time to time. Maybe I’ll go dig some worms.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611, or via e-mail at: