“When I was your age, I was playing soldiers in the forest,” DH glumly told our sons. They were lying sprawled on the sofa, the glow of their screens casting an eerie shadow over their faces. “Come on – off you go! Time to get outside.”
“Shoo,” I added, for good measure.
The boys sat up and stretched their limbs as though limbering up for unaccustomed exercise. DH turned to me, with frustration plastered all over him. “Why don’t they want to play in the forest? … I don’t get it.”
I shrugged. “Lost the instinct maybe? More used to shopping malls.”
It did seem a massive travesty. There we were in upstate New York, in a lovely airbnb holiday home, surrounded by six million acres of wilderness. A wild and magical place, the Adirondack Park is full of pristine lakes, coniferous forest, tranquil rivers and towering mountains.
Paddling routes weave through the dense woodland and rapids swirl along the Ausable Chasm canyon to the east. Whiteface Mountain’s ski runs are nearby, a beautiful area that has hosted the Winter Olympics twice.
We were straight out of Dubai, where the ‘feels-like’ temperature had reached 64 degrees C; it was like finding paradise. On a massive scale. The largest publicly protected area in the US, the Adirondack Park is bigger than the Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier and Grand Canyon national parks combined.
All around us there was hiking, canoeing, fishing and white-water rafting – which we made the most of. But, still, when we were in the house, it seemed the boys would rather plug themselves into their devices than go outdoors.
“Right, that’s it,” said DH the next morning. “iPads are banned.” SCREEN.TIME.WAS.OVER.
Cut off from technology, the boys had to make their own entertainment, while I attempted to sneak in a book and some painting. As long as they didn’t start a bonfire, the kids were free to do wholesome things like building camps and hide-and-seek. It was all going well …
… Until …
Son1 got sick and ended up back on the sofa. This meant Son2 lost his playmate, leaving him in need of company (read: bored) and giving us (well me at least – I’d got really into the painting pictured above) another challenge.
“Mummy, will you come and play in the forest with me?”
“Can I just finish this?”
EDITED TO ADD: Pokemon Go might be the answer! I’m told it tricks them to get out and after about 30 minutes they actually start looking around and realise they are outside. Sad but …