The other day I went to the Swamp Buggy Races held here in Naples FL; my first time ever I might add. Whoa—eee! What a great time! It was down and dirty and mighty fun if I don’t say so myself. Them there vehicles sure had some height to them and those wheels…. Hee haw! I’m telling you…….mighty colossal.
So I’m sittin’ up on them there bleachers, in the crowds, getting my bearings, learning the rules, watching the show. Motors are a-roaring, water a-spraying, mud a-slinging, and the sun a-shinin’. And me, a people-watcher, start paying more attention to the folks in the stands than the “real” event.
I’m telling you…those youngins… So damn cute! I took sight of a sweetheart of a little girl, a blondie, sitting on grand-pappy’s knee; snuggled right on in there, warmed and tucked in as snug as can be. Then there was little Joe, cheering along with Papa for his favorite vehicle “Swampbuster,” footed in mud boots, his tank top covered with good, wholesome, old-fashioned dirt. And the oldies but goodies, tattooed to the whazoo, corn dogs and beer in hand, having a gay old time. And them teenagers didn’t hesitate to join in, smoochin’ in the back row.
Kids ran freely, smiles and shouts of glee a-plenty, snow cones dripping. No designer outfits here, no “don’t run away from Mama” warnings, no waiting in lines, no preoccupations with cell phones, encumbrances, or interferences; total attention paid to each other; observing family-style entertainment; unadulterated, healthy, down- home fun for all ages; innocent love of the sport, shared time together. As a result, merriment ensued and love radiated.
I commented to my companion about my observations. How different the children here appeared to me from those whom I taught in my preschool. For the most part, kids at my school are dressed to the nines, squeaky clean, combed and neat as can be. No problem there. They’re real cuties and their parents are proud to show them off and keep them detangled, tidy and orderly. But I have to say, there was something precious and naive about the natural beauty of disheveled, ingenuous, candid, mud stained, little rugrats, scampering around, so uncomplicated and genuine.
There is something to be said for letting the kids run free; no planned days filled with scheduled lessons, play dates, instruction, and rigid supervision and scrutinization. Sometimes in our attempts to give everything to our children, we miss the boat. In the end, it’s not the material things they’re looking for. Rather, I believe what our kids really want from us is our time and attention; our complete devotion and joining in fun activities the whole family simply enjoys together.
I remember when my grandkids came over to America (they live abroad in Australia) not so long ago. I was so excited to give them a day out at Disney World. No doubt we had a thrilling time, but their longing was to spend their entire time solely on the race track cars, dismissing all other options. And I, in my attempt to show them what I considered an ideal time, felt I needed to expose them to the entire Magic Kingdom Park, convincing them to visit as many sights as possible and shop the souvenir stores for a special memory to take back with them. The next day it rained and I took them to Chucky Cheese for lunch. We ended up spending the entire afternoon there where they had the time of their lives, playing arcade bowling the whole time, collecting tickets to turn in for trinket prizes which by the end of the day had satisfied their purpose. Upon arrival back in Australia, the big talk was about their day at Chucky Cheese. Disney World for them was but a marginal distraction.
So my proposal.… Don’t knock your socks off trying to entertain in lavish ways, enroll them in the top-notch fad of the moment, buy them name brand clothes and worry about paint stains, make sure they are outfitted with the latest sports gear. The best thing you can give your kids is downright notice, consideration, awareness, and worthy attention. Sneak into their world every now and then, let your hair down, and kick up your heels. Might I suggest a day out at one of them there Swamp Buggy Races? You may just have yourself a hell of a damned good knee- slapping time… without even trying.