There are at least three playgrounds within the immediate area of the condo I live in, with my husband. Every morning when I join the rest of the corporate zombies on the clogged-up highway, I pass two out of the three playgrounds. When I return from work, I pass by the third playground.
Yet, these playgrounds are empty and completely devoid of children laughing and playing on them.
They are as empty as my bank account at the end of every month. “Where are the children?” I usually ask myself.
At home, no doubt, my mind would say. At home in their cozy bedrooms with their sticky little fingers clutching at a smartphone or a tablet, eyes glued to the screens with eyebrows furrowed in concentration as they try to battle their way past a group of orcs or race their souped-up cars all the way to the finishing line.
Gone are the days when children used to beg and plead with their parents to let them go to the playground to cycle, or the sports centre to swim with their friends. When my sister and I were young, we used to stand by the front door and pray that our dad would come home early. We used to ask our mum if he had called back to say he would be late or otherwise. We would eagerly await the return of our dad from work at 6:00pm sharp. The exhilaration and excitement at seeing him home early meant that we would have the chance to either play badminton, cycle, or go on the swings and ride the see-saws at our neighbourhood playground, or swim at the local sports centre.
Children these days would rather visit the Google Play Store or Apple iStore than the playground.
Everywhere I go, I see families in shopping malls with their offspring in tow, but they are facing the tiny screens in their hands instead of looking around the mall. What is so important that needs to be attended to on the phone that cannot wait until they sit down somewhere? At the restaurants, the adults are engaged in a conversation while the children are engrossed in their … whatever it is that they’re doing.
They are missing out on the fun of being a kid. They are missing out on the health benefits of vitamin D and exercise. They are missing out on having a childhood. They would grow up with a lack of interpersonal communication skills after having forged a friendship with their tech gadgets and social media accounts, than purely mucking around with their friends. They would eventually suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and bad eyesight after having sat at the computer for too long. They would also have smooth, fair skin compared to the rest of us who played in the sun for too long and bore battle scars like bruises from fighting with friends or scrapes from falling off the bicycle.
Those were parts of my childhood that I was proud to have, being able to laugh and cry – because I used to have a lot of minor accidents while learning to ride the bicycle – about the memories. I wonder what the children will have to talk about when they get older or when they have children of their own. What will they tell them?