The sad loss of childhood ‘joys’

Photo: Byrne/PA Wire

When I look at my grandchildren today and compare their childhood to mine, I experience a profound sense of sadness. My 5-year-old grandson is woken at 05:15 in order to be dropped off at pre-school at 6:15, a school he has attended since the age of 2.

His “homework” takes up an hour or more of his precious playtime every night, this after he has already spent 11 hours of his day at school. He has to bath, have supper and do afore-mentioned homework before having to be in bed by 20:00, and his homework is set for every day of the week, including Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays!

This child has never paddled barefoot in icy-cold, clear-running river water; never sat knee-deep in mud making mud pies; never sat munching soggy Tennis/Marie biscuits while drinking warm Oros from a China miniature doll’s tea set. Nor has he ever eaten loquats, guavas or figs picked directly from the tree; or sucked the juice from red pomegranate pips; or picked mulberries with purple-stained fingers, and he never will.

Surrounded by metre high concrete walls and a state-of-the-art alarm system, he has never even seen any of the neighbouring children. It’s really not much fun to ride your bike up and down the driveway when you have no on to play with! He has his own table and is an expert at inserting a new DVD (his term!) into his DVD player in his room enabling him to watch DVD’s for hours on end. Is this really the kind of childhood we envisaged for our grandchildren?

I was one of a whole group of children who dragged huge boulders and dammed up the river to make a natural pool in which we spent many happy afternoons splashing about. Adjacent to this fast-flowing river was an extremely high mountain which we had to ascend at an angle to get to the top. Once up there we would dare one another to see who’d get the closest to an unmarked mystery grave. There was also an old quarry in which we’d play before hurrying to get home before our parents arrived from work. Sometimes we’d sit in the sunken lounge of our house and listen to “Pretty Belinda, Little Arrows” and “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”, etc. that we played on an old gramophone that took 7 single records. Television only came to South Africa some 9 years later.

My eldest granddaughter once told me that she dreaded the long holidays and could not wait for school to start: “want Ouma, ons het niks om te doen nie.” Doesn’t that say it all when you think that my friends and I were unanimous in the belief that there just weren’t enough hours in which to enjoy our carefree summer days?

– a concerned grandparent




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