The Do Nothing Summer – PediaCast 382
- Pam Lobley joins Dr Mike on PediaCast. She is author of the book Why Can’t We Just Play: What I Did When I Realized My Kids Were Way Too Busy. We discuss the benefits, logistics and impact of pulling back and unplugging from an overly-scheduled family life. We hope you can join us!
- The Do Nothing Summer
- Why Can’t We Just Play?
- Family Schedules
- Hectic Lifestyles
- Why Can’t We Just play? (Familius Books)
- Why Can’t We Just Play (Amazon)
- Pam Lobley – Author Website
- Pam Lobley (@plobley) on Twitter
Announcer 1: This is PediaCast.
Announcer 2: Welcome to PediaCast, a pediatric podcast for parents. And now, direct from the campus of Nationwide Children's, here is your host, Dr. Mike.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Hello everyone, and welcome once again to PediaCast. It's a pediatric podcast for moms and dads. This is Dr. Mike, coming to you from the campus of Nationwide Children's Hospital. We're in Columbus, Ohio.
It's Episode 382 for July 26th, 2017. We're calling this one "The Do Nothing Summer". I want to welcome everyone to the program.
You're probably asking yourself, "What in the world am I getting myself into listening to an episode of a pediatric podcast called The Do Nothing Summer?" It's a good question.
Before I provide an answer and explain exactly what I mean by a do nothing summer, allow me to set the scene for you. Way back in 2006, when I envisioned to launch PediaCast, my goal was to provide a forum for evidence-based pediatric medical science hopefully in language parents could understand. Not dumbing down the science necessarily, just explaining and hopefully placing the information in context and providing some practical tips.
In other words, after understanding the science, how can you use this knowledge to help your children and your family live healthier lives?
So, there's always been a pediatric medical science component to the program. But in addition to that, right out of the gate back in 2006, we also had a parenting component of the program with some ideas and information that don't always rest in the realm of rigorous science.
And that's because there is an art to parenting. What works for one family doesn't always work for another. A particular child will likely respond to a particular parenting style in a particular way. So, each dynamic is unique, meaning that parenting is not a cookie-cutter sport. You have to know your kids — what makes them thick, how they respond, what they need.
And sometimes, you have to make decisions and adjustments on the fly. So, there's an art to this thing we call parenting. And I'm sure many of you in the audience with kids know exactly what I'm talking about.
And we do cover the art of parenting here on PediaCast in many different ways. And we cover it because the art is every bit as important as the science of pediatric medicine as we think about raising healthy kids and growing happy families. The science and the art really go hand in hand.
So, where am I going with this? Well, I've witnessed in my 20 years of experience as a pediatrician and as a parent. Turns out my daughter was born during the first month of my pediatric residency. So, my pediatrician skills and my parenting skills really grew hand in hand.
And over these 23 years, I have journeyed with many many other parents as they raised their kids. And in doing so, one thing that I've witnessed over and over again is parents and families struggling with very busy lives and overly scheduled kids.
And I think today more than ever before, kids and families are just overwhelmed with scheduled activity. Life is frantic and we just keep piling on more and more and more.
And I think as this becomes the American norm, it really is sort of becoming engrained in our culture that we feel like we have to keep going as we're going because everyone else is doing it. And if we don't keep up, we're failing our children and robbing them of opportunity.
Now, sure, crazy schedules and relentless activity, it works for some families. That's what I mean, each family is different, each dynamic is different. Some folks really do thrive with busy schedules. But there are many many families out there who are struggling because their life is just too busy. These are families who need to give themselves permission to slow down.
But sometimes you need a trailblazer, a role model, someone who stand up and say, "Look, we don't have to live this way. Our lives can be better. Our kids will not necessarily suffer. In fact, they can thrive from a place of fewer scheduled activities."
Now, someone who stand up and say, "This is what I believe. Here's why I believe it. This is what my family did, and here is the result and ongoing impact of our experience." With some words of encouragement, reassuring struggling families that it's okay to disengage from the rawries.
Now again, this approach is not for everyone. Each family's unique. On the other hand, it might just be exactly what your family needs.
My guest today is a mother who has done just as I described. She has stood up and said "Enough, we can do better. Our lives do not have to be this crazy."
And in her opinion, there are many other parents out there who are really losing out on enjoying their children because of the hectic nature that has become their lives.
My guest today is Pam Lobley. She is a graduate of the Goodman School of Drama at DePaul University in Chicago. After graduating from college, she maintained a very busy life working in television, filming, commercials, theaters, sketch comedy, improv. She has written plays and newspapers columns, and books.
And then she brought that busy lifestyle to her family, as she married and had children. And then one day, when her boys were eight and ten years old, she realized her family was simply too busy. They were over scheduled with classes, and homework, and school activities, and dance lessons, and karate, and Math tutoring. You know the drill, quick dinners in the car between activities.
So, as she decided to try and experiment. What if her family unplugged and had a do nothing summer? What impact will that have on her kids, on herself, and on her family as a whole?
She wanted to find out, so she did it. The family had a do nothing summer. And she writes about her experience in a wonderful book called Why Can't We Just Play?: What I Did When I Realized My Kids Were Way Too Busy.
I was so impressed with the message of this book, especially as it lies in contrast with the very busy lives of so many parents and families today. I asked Pam if she would join me here on PediaCast and talk about her do nothing summer and the impact it had on her kids, on herself, and her family as a whole.
She said yes. It's a great summer time topic and I'm excited to explore it further with her as we consider pulling back a little bit, unplugging, and giving ourselves permission to slow down.
We'll get Pam connected to the studio in a couple of minutes. Before we get to her, I do want to remind you, it's easy to get in touch with me if you have an idea for the program. There's a topic that you'd like us to discuss, if you have a question for me, or you want to point me into the direction of a journal article or newspaper article, a magazine article, whatever it is, if you have a comment, give me a holler.
It's easy to do, just head over to PediaCast.org and look for the Contact link. I do read each and every one of those that come through, and will to try get your question or your comments on the program.
Also, I want to remind you, the information that presented in every episode of PediaCast is for general, educational purposes only. We do not diagnose medical conditions and formulate treatment plans for specific individuals. So if you have a concern about your child's health, be sure to call your doctor and arrange a face-to-face interview and hands-on physical examination.
Dr. Mike Patrick: My guest today is Pam Lobley author of the book, Why Can't We Just Play?: What I Did When I Realized My Kids Were Way Too Busy.
It's a question many parents ponder, maybe not out loud, but it's there in the back of our minds. And the answer to that question – why can't we just play? – and the consequences of that answer can be scary. Because it's easy to feel like we're failing our kids when we pulled them out of activities and opportunities.
We worry about derailing their future success. We compare our family to other families. And we keep plugging along because it seems that is what we are supposed to do.
But what if we experimented for summer and see what happens? What if we pull back, unplug and have a do nothing summer? How can we plan and execute this experiment? What would the result look like? How would it affect our kids? How would it affect us as parents?
And what about the family dynamic? How would that change? These are questions Pam asks as she embarked on the task of unplugging her family for a summer. And the book is a journal of sorts outlining that experience.
It's a terrific idea, unplugging and playing. And Pam has lots of insight to share. So, let's give a warm PediaCast welcome to Pam Lobley.
Thanks so much for joining us today.
Pam Lobley: Oh, thank you so much. I'm really glad to be with you.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Really glad you're able to take the time. So, let's just start with the quick definition, what is it that you mean exactly by a do nothing summer?
Pam Lobley: So, the do nothing summer was one in which the kids had no scheduled plans or activities. Of course, they do things. They're kids, they play. But we did not sign up for any sports, no organized sports, no classes, no camps, even day camps, nothing. Every day was completely vacant.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And the kind of the idea when I hear do nothing summer is sort of like that Skipping Christmas or Christmas with the Kranks, the John Grisham story. Except as you said, you're not really skipping summer. You're just skipping summer as so many of us come to experience it.
Pam Lobley: Yes. I think what you said before, this feeling that if we don't give our kids activities, we're somehow failing them. But I felt like my kid had too many activities. In fact, they would literally say, "Could we just do nothing today?" or "Why can't we just play?"
So, I felt like I was actually doing them a disservice if I didn't give them a break. And that's kind of what gave me the courage I think to say, "All right, we're just going to stop."
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. And this really as you thought about it, I'm sure that the first tinges of thinking of it were a little anxiety provoking. But as you thought about it more and more it became an important thing for you to try.
Pam Lobley: Yes, it did. We had all these activities that they were doing, soccer, and karate, and scouts, and piano lessons. I mean, you don't think it's that much but when you start saying it out loud you realized, "My gosh, we barely have a free day." And then, once soccer season ends, and then baseball season begins.
So everything they were doing, they had wanted to do. But we just let it get out of control. And they really just wanted time to play. They were mostly doing these activities because that's how you see your friends, because everyone's in all those activities.
And so, stopping that was a little difficult because you think, "Well, gosh, how will I see my friends?" But they were very ready to just to take a break.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Now, from the nuts and bolts standpoint, how did you accomplish this? What sort of ground rules were there as you went in to the do nothing summer?
Pam Lobley: Well, the first one, obviously, is that I just did not sign them up for anything at all. I didn't even make them do like, we have adorable little reading program at the library where you read a certain amount of books and you get a prize. We didn't even do that.
And then, in terms of our schedule as it were, so I'm lucky enough that I work at home, I'm a writer. So, I would work in the morning and they were kind of free to just play around the house in their pajamas. They played a lot of Legos.
And then, in the afternoon, we have a camp pool. We would either go to the pool or we would maybe have friends over or have various play dates types of things. Or I would drag them along with me on any errands that I needed to do.
So, we just kind of let each day shape itself. Honestly, I have to say that the days were pretty empty.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah. But I would imagine that, well, maybe there was a little bit of boredom. How did the kids deal with that if they couldn't think of anything to do? Because I think back to my kids being at home, you'd hear very often, "Oh, I'm bored."
Pam Lobley: Oh, I heard every day or almost every day. But I kind of felt like, I mean, didn't our parents all say to us, "Then, go outside," "Then figure something out," "Then invent a game." The boredom was like a doorway for you to go through into something else. Not something that… My mom never was going to solve my boredom for me. She was just going to tell me to figure it out.
So when I saw them doing that, I kind of gave them those same tried and true answers, and they would figure it out. They invented a game. I mean, sometimes they would get bicker and you know, it kind of go south if you're stuck in the house for too long.
But in general, I think that the boredom that they face just lead them to be a little bit more creative.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. Now, the other temptation I think when boredom is there is to turn the screen on or turn the computer, the iPhone, or laptop, or a tablet. How were you able to limit screen time in doing this?
Pam Lobley: So, yeah, that's a really good question. So, my grand rules were, in the morning while I was working, they had the TV on and they were allowed to watch TV or play video games. This sort of took place five or ten years ago, and we didn't have an iPad then and they didn't have a phone yet either. So, in that sense I didn't have that temptation.
But my rule kind of was if it's nice enough to go outside, there's no need for a screen. So, once it was like 11:00 or something, the screen were supposed to be off, the TV was off, and you would go outside.
And then if we were going to be inside, okay, but you're still not having a screen until maybe the end of the day or after dinner or whatever.
And in general, it worked out okay. They got used to the rule. So, that's the parameter they lived in. And to tell you the truth, they would rather be with friends, they would rather be outside. I think a lot of times, screens are just the last resort, really. But then we get to used to that last resort.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. It's so easy to just turn that on or pick it up.
Pam Lobley: So easy.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. Now, you'd mentioned that you had the luxury of being able to stay home with them and that you're a writer. What about parents who can't stay home with their kids in the summer, can they still embrace this concept of a do nothing summer?
Pam Lobley: I think so. I mean, of course, wherever you're going to put your children, there's different camps and programs. So hopefully, whichever ones you pick are the fun ones that they like and maybe not they sort of pressure to getting ahead types of camps experience.
But then, there's always the evenings and the weekends. Or whatever summer vacation you have can be filled with filled with nothing, filled with just sort of simple or easy play choices that gives them the freedom to choose what they're going to play. Rather than okay, we've got five fun things planned or a day trip planned. Instead, we're just going to hang out.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah.
Pam Lobley: You guys can just play in the yard.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Beyond the boredom part of it what were some other challenges that you family faced?
Pam Lobley: Well, the biggest challenge is finding other friends to play with because at that time, most of their friends were in activities. So, particularly in the morning hours, a lot of the kids had different enrichment classes or camp. That's why I let them just stay in their pajamas and play because there were a dearth of friends in the morning.
But after lunch, the kids would be more free, unless they were involved in the travel sports or something. So then their friends would be more available. But definitely that would be the hardest part. And then, there'd be times when the two boys had nobody to play with but each other. And that was definitely hard because they got sick of each other.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah. Now, in the book, you mentioned that some of the things that we traditionally think about kids who might be bored and outside doing like going to playgrounds. But those were empty very often.
Pam Lobley: Yeah. That's a kind of a phenomenon that happens now, that I think it's so sad. It's that people, when you go to a playground, you see a lot of little kids, two years old, four years old, five. And they got their nannies or their moms and things with them, but the 7 and 10 and 11-year-olds, they're not on the playground.
And I think there are two reasons for this. One is I think that they're all wrapped up in activity. And two, I think that they're just not necessarily encouraged to play. I think our society has got into this weird stage where we think that a ten-year-old is too old to play.
That a ten-year-old is at the age now where they have a phone and they have a lot of after-school activities. Maybe they're involved in travel sports and they need to work on that. And that it wouldn't be fun for them to go to the playground and goof around.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah.
Pam Lobley: And I feel bad for the kids. I think that this is so wrong-headed. I think that 10-year-olds and 11-year-olds really need to play.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah. I mean that's where creativity comes out of that, just that free play.
Pam Lobley: Yeah. And I think it helps to deal with their stress. I was listening to Katie Hurley who's an author and a psychotherapist of children and adolescents. And she said the number thing kids say in her office is, "I wish I had more time to play."
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah.
Pam Lobley: That's heartbreaking.
Dr. Mike Patrick: It really, really is. Now, what about fighting? You have two boys…
Dr. Mike Patrick: Who are fairly close in age and sometimes closeness breeds a little contempt.
Pam Lobley: And they also like to a lot of the same activity, which was good. They play Legos together, they both love do dress-up play like light sabers, that type of thing in the backyard. But then, like you say, then that familiarity can backfire.
So I don't know, they would bicker, I would try to separate them. If it got too bad over a couple of days, I would try to arrange separate playdates or activities for them, so that they would get a break from each other.
Generally, if we were at the pool, our town pool, there'd be a lot of people there. And they can kind of go off with their own friends. So they got a break from each other then, too.
There's no doubt about it, that's an issue.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. But of course, then again there's an important life skill there to be nurtured, to work through those conflicts.
Pam Lobley: Yes, you are so right. And all that bickering and arguing, I think sometimes, as adults, it really bothers us. I hear kids on the playground saying things like, "He was out." And, "You're cheating." And the impulse is to rush in and fix it.
But you're right, they need to learn how figure all that out by themselves. And I think sometimes it's all that arguing is like more important than the game. They actually learn more from all that than the actual playing and fun part.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. You can tell kids, "Okay, put each other first, and try to find to compromise." But I think sometimes the more you tell them to do it, then they become more resistant to wanting to do that. But if they sort of to discover it on their own, that hey if I do compromise, we can have more fun. That I guess that's sort of you hope, is that they figure it out.
Pam Lobley: Yes, I think so. And I think they do I think the natural hierarchy of kids, the one who's not being nice, the other kids will let them know. "You know what? We don't like you when you do that. And we want you to play fair or whatever." And then they kind of have a choice, either play fair or the other kids aren't going to want to play with you.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. And I suppose, too, with just spending more time as a parent with your kids on the house, you probably felt like you got to know them a little better.
Pam Lobley: I did. That was one of the biggest surprises because how ridiculous does this sound? I'm at home with my kids most of the time and I feel like I'm just getting to know them now. But it's funny when you're on that treadmill, where you're kind of just rushing around and doing what everybody else is doing.
It can keep you from — it kept me — from really seeing their individual need. And then they be whining or uncooperative. And I think, well, what is wrong? Everybody else loves soccer. Everybody else wants to read this book. And then, once I sort of took away the structure that was all that running around and just let them be, then I would think "Oh, my gosh, I see now. He doesn't really like group sports because he's more an individual player."
And I kind of saw really how they were. And it really helps me then as they got older and through middle school and through high school, I felt like I understood a little bit their individuality and how to help them navigate that as they got older.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. So, there really was sort of a change in your approach to parenting after this do nothing summer.
Pam Lobley: Yes, it did. It showed me, number one, kind of like how you pointed out before, how not to conform and not to get caught up in that rat race. And if you think your family needs something different to be able to do that different thing. And then, also like I said just getting to know them.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. Now, what about your kids? What do they think of this?
Pam Lobley: Well, if you ask them now, several years later, they don't really remember that specifically. I mean, they'll remember certain things. But to them, it just was a fun summer where they got to do this and that. But I think the idea that they were free, at that time, the independence that they gained from being like in charge of their own day.
So my younger son was eight years old. But for him to be able to say, "Well, I get to "do what I want" all day." It's a very independent thing and I think it gave them a lot of confidence and resilience being able to make their own choices and feel confident in that.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. Did this affect other summers moving forward? So you didn't have a do nothing summer every year after that, correct? But maybe you weren't quite a scheduled as you were before?
Pam Lobley: That is correct. And in fact, even in our lives, we were not quite as scheduled. And again, it kind of went back to individuals. As they get older — and they play less when they're 13 or 14 — then they did want and they get want and they did need scheduled types of activities.
But definitely, the following summer, my older one, he did some more things because he was then 11 and 12. But my younger one, he still did almost nothing for a couple of more years. He was just happy with that.
And then like I said, during the school year, too, I would keep that in mind, like try to remember how they thrived with that downtime. And make sure keep that downtime in that schedule.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. And I get the impression that you feel pretty strongly about this and really advocate for other families to give this a try to actually have a do nothing summer.
Pam Lobley: Well, it works nicely for us. Maybe it's something, too, about boys — because I only have boys not girls — that boys maybe really want more of that sort of free time to run around, I don't know. But I would say that some kids I know do like a schedule. So, it's definitely an individual thing. But I think no matter who you are, your kid probably needs more downtime.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah.
Pam Lobley: Just because of the way the world works today. And I overheard a sixth grader during the year, so sixth-grade girl saying to a friend, "I'm so stressed out. I have a game this afternoon," which was Friday, "I have a game on Sunday and I have a birthday party from my cousin all day Saturday. I don't know when I'm going to do my homework."
And I thought to myself, this poor kid is 11 years old. That sounds like something like a junior in high school said. And it just made me kind of sad. And I thought to myself, her parents probably have no idea that she's this stressed out and also that they're doing anything wrong.
They probably think — and I mean this in a nice way — that she has a great life because she plays on whatever team that was, it's probably a really good team. And then, the fun birthday party. And I think sometimes we don't realize that our kids are stressed. And the only way for them to destress is to kind of have that backing up time.
Dr. Mike Patrick: I think sometimes, we sort of know this intrinsically, that things are too busy, that lives are little too crazy and hectic. But it's difficult because everyone else is doing it and you feel like you're robbing your kids of opportunities if they aren't being pushed. So, I think there are parents out there who just need to give themselves permission to make a change.
Pam Lobley: Yes, I agree. There's a pretty good online community of mom who will say, "Oh, I'm doing nothing. And we're relaxing this summer." So, people might be able to find of a little bit of support there. But I agree with you, it takes a little bit of courage because our biggest fear is failing our kids. That's the last thing we want to do.
So, if you missed the signups for the soccer or the math class, the extra tutoring or whatever, and one parent says to you, "Oh, you're not doing that?" It can make you feel so insecure. One minute, you feel great about your decision and the next, you're second guessing yourself. It is hard.
Dr. Mike Patrick: So, here we are at the end of July. Is it too late to embrace sort of do nothing summer this late into the year?
Pam Lobley: No, I don't think so. Especially August is one of those, isn't that just the laziest summer month of all? So, hopefully, even if the parents are both working full time, there's time on evening or weekends or whatever vacation to really just experiment with well, gosh, how little could we plan?
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah.
Pam Lobley: How much could we get away with before the kids say, "Is this really all we're doing today?" And see.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And maybe, you're already really crazy scheduled and you paid for these activities but your kids just don't seem interested, maybe it's okay to drop out of those. Not being a quitter, but just to try something different.
Pam Lobley: Yeah, I think so. And that's an interesting thing you bring out about like not being a quitter. That's another thing with our society. So, once you make a commitment in this and that. But sometimes, eight or nine-year-olds, they really don't know what they want or what they're getting into.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah.
Pam Lobley: And I know my son was doing karate and he loved it when he was eight. And then, he turned nine and we put him into the "big kids class" and he immediately hated it because it stopped being fun and started being serious. And he was thinking, "Oh, why can't it just be fun again?" Well, the answer was because you turned nine.
Pam Lobley: And they don't let it be fun anymore. So we quit, that was it. So, again, it gets back to what is the best thing for your kid?
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah. Because I think a lot of times — and I don't say this up on a soap box because I've been guilty of it myself — is we really sort of live vicariously through our kids and sometimes push them into the things we wished that we had done.
Pam Lobley: I agree, especially when we see their talents. Like I'm not a great singer but my kids have nice voices and I want them to sing all the time because I can never do it. So, I know what you mean. And it's exciting to see them have a talent or an interest and watch it flourish.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. In terms of the school year, did having the do nothing summer impact or sort of extend into the upcoming school year? Or it was just a summer thing?
Pam Lobley: Well, it's hard to really do nothing all during the school year, of course, because there's things that they want to do. Of course, school for one and homework. But I did try to always clear the space. So, even if the weeks were busy, we would try to have some free time in weekends. And particularly for my younger one, until he got to middle school, he didn't really do a lot of activities.
I would try to keep a running tally. Well, let's see we already have one thing that once a week and another thing that's once a week. So, that's enough. We're not going to add a third activity until those have finished. We try to space it out a little.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, and maybe prioritize — these are the things that are really important and these are the things we could maybe do without.
Pam Lobley: Yes. And I think there's that fear of that falling behind. Well, if he doesn't take music lessons now, then he won't be good enough for the high school band or he won't do this. I found that to almost never be true. I feel like, especially when they're little, there's always time to play the sport or learn new instruments.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. So you talk about your do nothing summer in your book, Why Can't We Just Play? Tell us a little bit more about the book itself.
Pam Lobley: So the book just takes place over that one summer, it's a memoir. The boys were eight and ten. And as we talk about I recognized that they were way too busy, so we really cut back and focus on their play.
And the other aspect of the book is that I have my own personal reasons for feeling like we were too busy, which is that I felt like I wasn't enjoying being a mom as I had in the beginning. When your kids are babies and preschoolers, there's so much together and the days kind of flow and there's a lot of room for spontaneity. And all of the sudden, I felt like all I was doing was stirring them through their busy days and passing in snacks in the back seat and half listening while I was making a list for the next day.
And I felt like, my gosh, they're going to grow up but I'm going to feel like where did my motherhood go? I didn't get to have that fun motherhood that I wanted?
So that was another thing, is that I was looking for ways to just simplify for them, but also for myself. And one of the things I did in the book was I sort of jokingly referred it to a summer from the 1950s. And I thought I learned a lot about that that time.
And basically, the big lesson from the old days is that people have much more reasonable expectations about what their kids should be doing. Nobody used to expect their kids to get the black belt when they were ten years old in the old days.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Right, right, absolutely. I mean, the expectation was just to go outside and play and have a little fun.
Pam Lobley: Right, and then to be respectful and do your chores.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah.
Pam Lobley: That was kind of the list.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. Now, as I think to my own childhood in going out and having fun, sometimes, there's some dangers out there today that weren't necessary around or maybe you just didn't hear about them as much. But supervision still has to be an important part of this, right?
Pam Lobley: Yes. And there are probably people that are more comfortable with letting their kids roam free than I am. I mean, even though I was very much into this free play and things. I supervise them fairly closely. I mean, when we would be at the pool, I was at the pool with them. And when we went to playground, I was there or I would be close by or there'd be a bunch of other kids.
So you have to be careful and you have to know your neighborhood and your own child. Some kids are ready to ride their bike along when they're ten and some aren't. It kind of depends on. So yeah, that's a fact of life really.
And it does make it harder for parents because, boy, the old days when you can just open the door and tell them to come back for lunch, those are kind of gone.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, it was when the street light come on that you needed to be back home.
Pam Lobley: Yeah, exactly, which was like 9:00 in the summer.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yes, yes, yes. But you know, the kids were in the neighborhood. And there were really was, I think, out of the boredom came a lot of creative play. Because as I think back to those days, just the games that we made up, even with the ball, we just make up the rules and come up with games on our own.
Pam Lobley: And it was so much fun.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah.
Pam Lobley: Yeah, you could do it like if there was a big tree and somehow, the big tree would be part of the game. You just constantly made up your own. And you're right, it was, and I think it fostered a lot of creativity and independence.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. One of my favorite chapters in the book is when you talked about your family vacation. Walk us through the craziness that's a family vacation.
Pam Lobley: Okay, so we take a big beach vacation every year, my family, because my brother lives in Maryland. My sister lives in North Carolina, so we all convene together in one house for a week in the summer. And I think a lot of families do that actually these days. That's kind of a phenomenon which is nice because people all get together.
But the task of getting your entire family ready for an 11-hour drive with the dog and then the week with all the different generations and everything, it is a lot. You got to get the car checked out. And I would always have to get them whatever prescription medicines they were on. You have to get that filled and do all the laundry.
And then, when you get there, my parents would be so excited to see the grandkids and they're looking forward to maybe a nice beach walk or a nice ice cream cone on the porch. And my kids just want to run around screaming with their cousins. They're so excited to see their cousins.
So being the generation or the mom in the middle, it's a big balancing act to try to make sure everybody's having kind of what of they came for in that vacation.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, you know, as you were describing that experience, I felt a little guilty about it because I started to think, yeah, my wife does all of those things, really organizing, and preparing, and making sure that everyone's having fun. And that the memories are being made and that it all comes together. And sometimes, we just, as dads and men, I'm sure there are others who share that experience that you kind of just go and be. But there's a lot of pressure on the mom.
Pam Lobley: Yes, there's a lot of pressure. I say in the book, moms don't relax on vacation. It's true. We tend to be the caretakers. And I think, too, when vacation comes everybody has so many expectations that, as the mom, you really want everybody to have a great time.
You're spending the money, you're taking time off of work. You know it's going to be hopefully some wonderful memories. And the memories are there for us, too. But yes, I definitely feel the excitement and the responsibility to make sure that everybody is having a great time.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. One of the hardest things for our family when we go on vacation… And as the kids are growing up, we went up on many vacations. And I think that we always joke that we spend our kids' college money on family vacations.
Dr. Mike Patrick: But really, there was a lot of bonding and fun and memories that were made. And then, you feel like you get home after vacation and there's the big post-vacation letdown. How did your family deal with that?
Pam Lobley: Well, probably the same way everybody does, by being depressed.
Pam Lobley: No, you get home and the only good thing about coming home is that sometimes, the little bit of structure that returns to your life can be relaxing almost after so much fun and chaos. But yeah, the only thing that we would do is I would try to plan one or two fun things. Nothing exciting, but like maybe see some friends that we missed or if there was a movie we wanted to see. Just one or two things that week, so that it wasn't completely bleak back to the boring life.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah, something to kind of look forward to.
Pam Lobley: But it's always hard. Something to look forward to, exactly.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes, before vacation, everybody's kind of doing their own thing. And we would find that after vacation, we were more likely to play games together and to sort of engage and have fun a little bit more. And so, sort of grabbing hold of the vacation experience and bringing that into everyday life to some degree.
Pam Lobley: That's a really good point. I know that like the classic thing, when it rains on vacation, you play Monopoly or you set up a big game. Our family's into poker. We love to get the poker chips out and play. And then, when you have fun doing that, then maybe you take that home with you. And then, the next time it rains at home, the kids might say, "It's raining. Can we play poker?"
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. That's great, great point. There are so many things I love about your book, but the handy reference guide to that simpler time, at the end of the book, really, you talked about this summer being sort of like 1950s summer. And it just had some reminders of some specific things that were from that time that maybe we ought to bring back.
Pam Lobley: Yeah. So when I was writing the book, my editor had suggested put some of these games in there. Make a big list of all the games because parents and families may be are forgetting about these games. And it's kind of true, we all remember maybe regular where we capture the flag. But once you sit down to really list them, you think, my gosh, there were so many games that we played or activities that we did that kind of get forgotten about now because we're so scheduled.
And if you tell your kids, listen, you got three friends over go out in the backyard, are they going to know how to play Mother Mary? Or will it occur to them, have they ever had of Kick the Can or all these games that, I don't know, we all just learned in the neighborhood somehow?
So yes, I made a big list of all those games including with the instructions. So that if your kids are having some trouble getting started, it's like a resource to kick in that free play.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah. And like you say, we do forget, because as I was reading through the list, oh, I hadn't thought about that in years. And maybe because my kids are a little older now. But things like Simon Says and Duck that Goose, and even just simple things like blowing bubbles or playing with the yoyo.
Pam Lobley: Yes, playing with the yoyo. And then, there's all those pretendings like my gosh, my sister and I played house. I mean, I don't know if girls play house anymore. But we played house every day inside. And our neighbors would come over and who's going to be the dad, who's going to be the dog, who's going to be the baby?
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, right.
Pam Lobley: And we had so much fun.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. Charades was also on there. That's one that we played quite often when the kids were younger. And usually, charades would end up in everybody just laughing so hard that you're nearly in tears.
Pam Lobley: Yes, I agree. Charades was one of our favorites, too. And, of course, you can keep on playing that. The older you get, it doesn't matter. In fact, now that you say that, I think the next time we're all together, I'm going to demand that Charades game.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yes.
Pam Lobley: You're right.
Dr. Mike Patrick: It's been a long time.
Pam Lobley: You just end laughing so hard.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Pam Lobley: Which is great, yeah.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And then, scavenger hunts are fantastic idea. And I'll admit, we took a family vacation to Disney World this past Spring. And we made a mistake of going over spring break, and it was just crazy busy. I mean just terrible lines. And so we had a scavenger hunt in the park.
Pam Lobley: Oh, my gosh. So how did that work?
Dr. Mike Patrick: Well, my kids are older. And so, we would go off on our own and we'd have a list of things that we'll have to take pictures of and then we would judge who had the best pictures. That was one way that we played.
Dr. Mike Patrick: So you had to find something to do because the lines were just so long even with the FastPasses.
Pam Lobley: I bet they loved it.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Oh, it was a memory for sure.
Pam Lobley: Absolutely. Oh, that's a great idea.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, it was fun. So tell us where moms and dads can find your book, Why Can't We Just Play?
Pam Lobley: It is everywhere books are sold. It's on Amazon. It's in Barnes & Noble or in the Barnes & Noble site. It's in a lot of local bookstores, too. So if you have a local bookstore that you love to patronize, that would be great. And then, it's also on Kindle and it's also on audio. You can even download it and listen to it.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yes. I love the audio book idea, because like a podcast, you can listen while you're being productive, while you're driving or exercising, cooking, gardening. So, fantastic.
And we'll put links to all the places folks can find the book in the Show Notes for this episode, 382, over at PediaCast.org. So Pam Lobley, author of Why Can't We Just Play?, thanks so much for stopping by today.
Pam Lobley: Thank you so much. It was such a pleasure to talk to you.
Dr. Mike Patrick: We are back with just enough time to say thanks to all of you for taking time out of your day and making PediaCast a part of it. As always, really do appreciate that.
Also thanks to our guest this week, Pam Lobley, author of Why Can't We Just Play? And as I mentioned, we'll have a link to the book in the Show Notes over at PediaCast.org for this episode, 382. So I'd encourage you to check that out if you'd like to hear more from Pam.
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