I’m a person who contemplates a lot of off-the-wall stuff – always have done so. The past few years since I discovered the gym and have been working on getting my health in order, I’ve been thinking a lot about the health and fitness of kids in my life. Recently, I realized something that shook me quite a bit.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a laundry detergent commercial that featured some kid’s grass-stained clothing.
Think about that for a second. Children of the 80’s – even this bookworm, indoor-girl child of the 80’s – got grass stains fairly often. It wasn’t because our parents all had us enrolled in seventeen sports teams every year – some people played a sport or two as kids, but most of my classmates didn’t. No – it was because we actually played outside. Regularly. With gusto.
The household challenges of having kids that played outside were played out daily on television in the form of commercials. Moms (who it was assumed did 100% of the laundry) were barraged with ads showing how to use Magic Laundry Products to remove every kind of stain imaginable from their crazy children’s clothes – spaghetti sauce, mud, and grass being the top offenders. Who can forget the ERA detergent advertisements where they showed an enormous, bright green grass stain on a white shirt, then write “Era” in the detergent and rinse away the part of the stain covered by the detergent? It was a memorable ad campaign from that time, and yet just a couple of decades later the concept of removing a grass stain is sufficiently passe that you don’t see it anymore.
What the hell happened?
I truly don’t think it’s that kids are never outside anymore. Heck, I live in an area where I’m pretty sure that Department of Child and Family Services will come take your children away if they aren’t involved in at least 2 sports per year. I can’t remember the last time I made acquaintance with someone who didn’t have at least one child’s team sport on their calendar. Some of them are even outside, like soccer and softball, so you’d expect some grass staining is happening. But the ad hoc, I-was-playing-football-in-the-yard-with-Tommy grass-stain? Can’t remember the last time I saw one of those.
Yup. The kids, they don’t play outside just for fun anymore. They play sports, or they have play dates, or they hang out inside with the XBox360, but they don’t roam free much, even in their backyards. We are afraid to let our kids go outside for fear of abduction, harassment, and other forms of stranger danger, but instead of risking the very slight chance of a child being kidnapped, we accept the much more likely risk of making our kids inactive, overweight, and conditioned to dislike the notion of exercise as part of their daily lives.
<sarcasm> I know, I know – I’m the woman with no kids, so surely I am not allowed to have an opinion on child-rearing topics. And surely I can’t possibly understand the responsibility and fear associated with the notion of a child going missing. Because since I’ve never given birth, that means I don’t have the capacity to love a kid and want what’s best for them. </sarcasm>
For my part, if I had a child, I would probably have a hard time deciding between shoving them out the back door every day after their homework was done and keeping them locked in the house encased in a plastic bubble. But after going through my life not being nearly active enough and not building the exercise habit myself, and seeing the impact of being overweight on my mental and emotional health, I’ve got to believe there is a happy medium between these extremes. And that finding it isn’t just good for kids’ physical health, but it’s also good to train them how to entertain themselves without having to rely on adult coaches, structured activities, or electronic games.
I don’t know if I’m ever going to have a chance to try these theories out on my own kids, but I can say this for sure: I hope in my house, there are lots and lots of grass stains to be removed.
Bring on the laundry detergent commercials.