In the misty-eyed view of my childhood, us neighbourhood kids got up to all sorts of mischief in the rear carparks and alleyways behind the flats where we lived. There was no DVD/VCR, there was no computer or XBox. In the early days there wasn’t even any Nintendo Game And Watch. There was Lego, but overall I think we spent a lot more time outside than my kids do now. Hide-and-seek. Riding bikes. Mud pies. Cap guns. Water-powered rockets. Front yard footy.
Last Sunday on the way back from the shops, the boys and I went to the park. No, even better, while I ducked home with some shopping, they made their own way to the park. This in itself was a revelation — although there were no streets to cross, having them both walk somewhere on their own (even though they’d only be alone for 10 minutes max) has been a rare event in their lives so far.
I found them not in the playground, but on the grass, rolling themselves down a hill. They also said they’d rolled a couple of unused loose pavingstones down the hill. At least I hope they were unused.
After some time on the playground equipment (which is getting more curvy and organic-like with every park renovation) they explored part of the park that’s having renovation work done on it. We ran up a big pile of dirt, then we climbed up a mountain of tan-bark. Great view from the top.
Then I lay on the grass and watched as the boys helped another kid who was trying to dig a tunnel into one of the dirt mounds. They surveyed the site and talked like engineers, as they discussed how to prop up the entrance, and came up with a scheme for a massive tunnel network linking each of their houses with the park.
Maybe they won’t always want to do this kind of stuff, but I found it refreshing to just watch them do the things boys from every socio-economic background do the world over.
When it was time to go, the tunnel hadn’t progressed very far — maybe a metre — but there’s only so much you can do in one day.