My children have it good. And no, it’s not a biased mom saying this. It’s that I realize the wisdom in my decision years ago to exert strong control over the influencing factors in their lives and make sure they were exposed to all manner of contemporary culture, not just the trendy, prevailing ones of their peers.

In this way, I’m a bit of a throwback. I far prefer the original Parent Trap movie to the Lindsey Lohan version. My kids have seen Bye Bye Birdie and danced around my bedroom to the music. They’ve read classic novels like Moby Dick and Gulliver’s Travels and the Little House series.

During the school week, my children are not allowed to use “electronics” as it’s become known in our house: TV, Wii, computer or iPad – unless they need to for school research or school work. (This is the one area where my ex and I mostly agree – thank God we have one!) On the weekends, their time on these interchangeable mediums is severely limited (no more than 2 hours total a day, and often far less).

No TVs in bedrooms. No iPhones. The only reason two of my kids have cell phones at all is so they can call one parent from the other parent’s house whenever they want. 

On their iPods you’ll find the expected Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber but you’ll also hear Bruce Springsteen, Journey and the Indigo Girls. They are big fans of Matisyahu.

It’s too easy to park our kids in front of flipping images and blazing colors so we can GET STUFF DONE. But as soon as we check those to-dos off our essential lists, we always find another list starting, growing, pulling at us with its claws.

The to-dos are never ending – and most are not really essential. Time with children? Absolutely essential. 

I remember playing after-school on my block with neighbor kids. We ran between houses, played tag, Ghost in the Graveyard, hide and seek. We rode our bikes on the interweaving paths in our neighborhood, climbed jungle gyms, imagined whole worlds beneath the bent branches of a weeping willow.

My children need time to play, to imagine, to run free with their creativity, to breathe in fresh air and soak in the sunshine. Vitamin D deficiency? We reap what we sow. ADHD? Try eliminating flipping images and spending time with your kid from birth until whenever and maybe that, too, will diminish.

There is a popular poster that says all I need to know I learned in Kindergarten. Well, all I need to know I learned in childhood: don’t book up your schedule with useless running to-and-fro, spend time with people whose voices are like music to you, be outside every day, enjoy what you eat, color outside the lines but also be aware of the need to color inside them, too. Get a good night’s rest. Read before bed (no TV!). Say I love you. A lot. Avoid the mean kids. Cry when you’re hurt, laugh when you’re having fun, and try to make the laughter the more frequent of sounds in your life.

It’s just that simple.

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