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My kids have a 1980s-like summer of play

A game of catch with a football is a perfect summertime activity. Katie Pinke / Forum News Service1 / 3
Anika Pinke plays “ranch rodeo” on the deck of her grandparents' house. Katie Pinke / Frum News Service2 / 3
Anika Pinke enjoys playing catch with her brother. Katie Pinke / Forum News Service3 / 3

I recently read an article that described me as a Xenial, a micro-generation born between 1977 and 1983. We were raised in an analog childhood, but live a digital adulthood. As a child, video games and TV were limited to me and my siblings because my mother, who holds degrees in early childhood and elementary education, insisted on a lot of playtime and minimal technology.

I'm grateful for my simple childhood, so as a mother, I'm intentional about creating unplugged, less-digital experiences for my children. My girls are 8 and 9 years old. As I learned from their brother, who's a decade older, carefree hours of play will be replaced by a list of responsibilities in the blink of an eye.

Before enjoying playtime, though, it's important my girls get their chores done. They are expected to keep their rooms tidy, fold and put away laundry, do dishes and clean the kitchen, and care for and feed pets. They have for room for improvement, but this summer has gotten much better for responsibility. They are not paid for chores — that's part of being in our family and living in our home. The girls also are required to read a book of their choice for 30 minutes after a meal or before bedtime and track their minutes for an end-of-summer reward.

Once their chores are done for the day, it's time to play. They go to the park and our small-town swimming pool with their summer babysitter and friends. From our house on the edge of town, I can hear the laughter from the swimming pool. My heart is full thinking of the summer memories being created.

When our son moved out of the college dorms in May and into a rental house, he took his favorite furniture from his "man cave" in our basement. Eventually, I'll put furniture back in the basement, but for now his little sisters have transformed the space into a school with desks we had on hand, a gymnastics area with mats and a doll area with babies who all have first and middle names. In this waning window of playing their way through the summer, I relish in hearing the laughter and imaginary play coming from our basement.

The girls visit their nearby grandparents at least twice a week. I enjoy hearing about and seeing the restaurant they set up using the play kitchen my sister-in-law enjoyed 40 years ago or the make-believe school they organized in their grandparents' office with lists and classroom instructions hanging on the wall.

This past week, I pulled into my parents' farm driveway to find my youngest daughter and son playing football in the yard. Anika was the running back and Hunter was the quarterback. When I got out of the car, she took me to the deck where she was playing "ranch rodeo" with a stick horse, stool, stuffed animal cow, a homemade lasso and barbecue tools to brand the livestock.

In recent weeks, my girls have been to swimming lessons, baseball practices and games, volleyball camp, basketball camp and on visits with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Once I'm done with my responsibilities, I've enjoyed a summer of play with my daughters as well, which includes more walks, less cooking, more eating sandwiches outside and more weeknight evenings at our nearby lake.

How about allowing yourself a few extra moments to play this summer. What's a summer childhood memory dear to you? Have you ever thought about recreating that memory? Sure, it won't feel the same, but even adults need to set aside time to play and unplug.

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