The Connection Runners + [why run?]

For the Love of the Outdoors

When I was a kid, rarely a day passed by when I didn't take my towheaded self outside once spring and summer rolled in to town.

Growing up with an older brother and sister, not to mention in a neighborhood chock full of kids our age, there was never a dull day. We spent hours and hours running and biking and jumping and playing.

My sister and I tried to beat each other's best Skip-It scores without incurring the make-you-wince-in-pain-but-try-not-to-show-it-because-you-wanted-that-high-score Skip-it bang to the ankle bone.

The boys of the block played baseball on the "diamond" that was a grassed-filled cement circle at the end of our street, sliding into home and eroding sprinted paths between "bases".

If we felt creative, we'd draw stars and circles and hopscotch boards with sidewalk chalk, reveling in the glory of the pastel dust.

When the sun shined, there were games of Freeze Tag and TV Tag and Regular Tag while the night brought an occasional game of Hide-and-Seek Tag where one could hide anywhere the neighborhood, and the street was filled with nervous kid giggles and screams of "I hear you" and the clomp, clomp, clomp of feet trying to make it Home Free.

As a kid, I never considered playing outside something that I had to do. It was something I did because it was fun. It was natural.

Okay, so there were the times when my mom would plead with us to "go outside and burn off some energy" because with three noisy kids in the house, she needed a break.

But mostly, we played outside because we enjoyed it.

So, a confession: Now that I'm an old, cynical adult, I eye most kids today with disdain as they text each other on bedazzled Blackberries, fret over progress (or lack thereof) on the latest Xbox game, and sit indoors on the computer for hours, posting Facebook statuses filled with grammar errors and an abundance of unnecessary exclamation points.

In a small way, I get it. Kids love what they love. I, too, had my days of plopping down in front of the tube to catch some Animaniacs, chomping on too many potato chips.

However, unless my eyes are losing their mojo, or unless I'm just getting too crotchety to notice, I swear that I don't see kids burning off some energy outside like we did in the old days.

And now, another confession: I worry that Charlotte is going to grow up not knowing how to play tag or draw with sidewalk chalk or just run around for the hell of it.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not going to force some kind of exercise addiction upon the poor child. I just want to make sure she gets a good daily dose of Vitamin D, free from the sun. I want her to know that exercise doesn't have to be boring, and that playing outside isn't a "must-do", it's a "want-to-do".

It's important to me and Kevin that Charlotte grows up with a familiarity of the outdoors. So we're starting early. We take her on walks. We peruse little kid soccer shinguards and cleats, hoping she'll be a spectacular mid-fielder one day, just like her parents were. We discuss plans to bring her to our races so that she, too, can experience the excitement.

We want to share our love of exercise now, so that she'll hopefully love it later.

Now, where the hell is my old Skip-It? I think I owe my sister a good old challenge in Mom's driveway.