|Not that Johnny!
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Sunday, December 29, 2019
Can Johnny Come out and Play?
Can Johnny Come out and Play?
“Can Johnny come out and play?” If you are over 40, you know this question. Kids used to go to their friend’s home whether across the street or blocks away, knock on the door and when the mom opened the door, little Billy would ask, “Can Johnny come out and play?”
He would then either be told, “Johnny has to go to confession” or “Johnny has to finish his homework” or “Johnny is being punished, maybe tomorrow.” In which case Billy would go to another friends house and ask the same question.
Mom would yell, “Johnny, Billy is here” and the two friends would find something to do without any adult supervision until the sun went down.
I’m not sure when or why this tradition went away. Maybe as both parents worked, children were never home. They were at Grandma’s or had some arranged, organized after-school activity.
Of course, today, cell phones would eliminate the house visit. Maybe kids just chat and text instead of playing. My youngest just missed the “everyone has a cell phone” era.
We never arranged “play dates” for my first three children. Mostly we just asked them where they were going and told them when to be home.
My youngest, who now is months away from graduating from college, was in the “play date” generation. He had soccer, basketball or flag football practice, or he had guitar lessons, or he had stupid amounts of homework after school. Sometimes there were arranged “play dates” but I think they were more for the moms to get together and share a bottle of wine.
Summers for this “play date” generation friends scattered with the wind. They had summer homes, or summer camps, or clubs to go to…no one it seemed was ever actually home.
One summer, when Spencer was nine, he was moping around “Bored!” I think he was expecting me to start making calls and find a “play date.” I told him, “Why don’t you go across the street and see if Little John wants to play.”
Little John was a year younger than Spencer, but they played several sports together. We called him Little John because his neighbor was an ex-professional basketball player (European Leagues) who was 6’8” also John, hence Big John.
Anyway, Spencer looked at me like I had two heads.
“What, just go over and ring the bell?”
“Yes, it used to be done all the time.”
He must have been really bored because he did just that; went across the street and rang the bell.
Little John was home. They, swam, Little John had a pool, and or played ball the rest of the day. I was somewhat concerned that LJ’s mom would be upset that we didn’t call and make a “play date”, instead she said Spencer coming over was great. Little John was starting to get on her nerves with his “Boredom.”
That summer the two played often, without a parent making arrangements for a “play date.”
Its how it always used to be, the way it should be, the way it will probably never be again.