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A cheer for playing the game

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I'M a Little League mother of the worst kind. I admit it. If the sport requires a uniform and is organized for kids, I let mine sign up for it. Then I go to all the games and cheer until I'm hoarse. I wear photo-pins on my coat showing the kids in their uniforms. I put in more miles chauffeuring them to their athletic events than a Greyhound bus driver, and I bake hundreds of cookies for fund-raisers so I can then go to the bake sale and buy the cookies back. Especially in the fall and spring, when some of the sports overlap and the kids wind up with schedules that would stagger a political candidate, I worry about all this busyness. When I was an amateur child expert -- that was before I actually had any -- I criticized my friends who allowed their children to become ``overcommitted.'' When, I asked, do the children get to be kids? With all that organized activity, how do they learn to use their own resources? Where do they find the time to lie on their backs and watch the shapes of their dreams drift by?

Now that I have two children of my own, I'm not so sure that if the kids had more free time it would be used for reading or interacting with friends or even daydreaming. I think the time would be spent at the mall playing video games, or parked in front of the TV to an accompanying chorus of (my chant) ``Can't you get out and do something besides stare at the tube?'' and (their chant) ``We're bored, there's nothing to do.''

I can't even use my own childhood experiences as a guide to how they should spend their time. My children live suburban lives in the 1980s so unlike my own rural childhood in the late '40s and '50s that if we weren't related to each other, we would have nothing in common. My parents didn't even have a television, while my children are bombarded with pictured messages urging them to buy, to spend, to consume, and, most important of all to the people running the television station, sit there and don't mov e.

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