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Boys will be boys

In the misty-eyed view of my childhood, us neighbourhood kids got up to all sorts of mischief in the rear carparks and alleyways behind the flats where we lived. There was no DVD/VCR, there was no computer or XBox. In the early days there wasn’t even any Nintendo Game And Watch. There was Lego, but overall I think we spent a lot more time outside than my kids do now. Hide-and-seek. Riding bikes. Mud pies. Cap guns. Water-powered rockets. Front yard footy.

Last Sunday on the way back from the shops, the boys and I went to the park. No, even better, while I ducked home with some shopping, they made their own way to the park. This in itself was a revelation — although there were no streets to cross, having them both walk somewhere on their own (even though they’d only be alone for 10 minutes max) has been a rare event in their lives so far.

I found them not in the playground, but on the grass, rolling themselves down a hill. They also said they’d rolled a couple of unused loose pavingstones down the hill. At least I hope they were unused.

After some time on the playground equipment (which is getting more curvy and organic-like with every park renovation) they explored part of the park that’s having renovation work done on it. We ran up a big pile of dirt, then we climbed up a mountain of tan-bark. Great view from the top.

Then I lay on the grass and watched as the boys helped another kid who was trying to dig a tunnel into one of the dirt mounds. They surveyed the site and talked like engineers, as they discussed how to prop up the entrance, and came up with a scheme for a massive tunnel network linking each of their houses with the park.

Maybe they won’t always want to do this kind of stuff, but I found it refreshing to just watch them do the things boys from every socio-economic background do the world over.

When it was time to go, the tunnel hadn’t progressed very far — maybe a metre — but there’s only so much you can do in one day.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

5 replies on “Boys will be boys”

reminds me a bit of that Leunig cartoon of a child watching a sunrise on TV, when out of the window (and unnoticed) the real thing is happening. Parents seem to want “sophisticated” kids these days. Groan!!
PS It’s not just a boy thing; my girls love rolling down hills, constructing freeways in the sand on the beach and (the 8 year old) getting filthy dirty.

Those last lines reminded me of the bit in War of the Worlds where the artilleyman is digging his underground utopia, to quote (from the Jeff Wayne version):

I’ve got a plan!

Can’t you just see it? Civilization starting all over again – a second chance. We’ll even build a railway and tunnel to the coast, go there for our holidays. Nothing can stop men like us. I’ve made a start already. Come on down here and have a look.

JOURNALIST: In the cellar was a tunnel scarcely ten yards long, that had taken him a week to dig. I could have dug that much in a day, and I suddenly had my first inkling of the gulf between his dreams and his powers.

I was a kid in the late ’60s and early ’70s, living in Albury, and myself, my brother and the next door kids got up to all those things – We went as far as building a complete underground complex in a nearby vacant block, complete with underground rooms, tunnels etc. Years later it was made into a carpark. I’ll bet the bulldozer driver got a surprise! I can remember at the time actually owning a crystal set too, which was far more than most kids had then. I also remember being impressed with a school mate’s toy “walkie-talkie” which had a plastic tube linking the two handpieces!
Its a completely different world for today’s kids who have access to a huge range of electronic goodies that not only did not exist back then, but were not even science fiction fantasies! But its good to see they still have a sense of adventure and improvisation we all had as kids.

I think the tunnel linking each persons house is a good idea :). Why don’t you help them do it? Or at least dig a big hole with a shovel 3 or so metres deep, put in some steps down there, put wooden boards over the top, fill dirt on top of the boards. Underground cubby house! :D

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