It's the time of year when families young and old try to get away together to that special summer place. It could be a collection of cottages around a reservoir in Alabama, a favorite R.V. park in the Midwest or a mountain campground in the Adirondacks. For my family, it was always a small community of camps (which is what we call cottages in Upstate New York) along the shores of Lake Ontario.
I spent every summer that mattered there growing up, and learned all I cared to know on those shores. Now, my wife and I take our young kids there.
But something has changed about our little community.
As a kid, my brothers and I made the best friends we ever had there: kids from Florida, the Carolinas, New Jersey and Central New York, all spread out among the camps of the community. We swam, skipped rocks, made bonfires. Between all those activities, we walked. We walked to the beach. We walked to other friends' camps. We walked to the impromptu rec hall that was Mrs. Woesner's, where we played cards and croquet and spent many rainy summer days.
When I visit our little summer community now with my young kids, I see a new generation of adolescents, all about the same age we were when we had the best summers of our lives.
And here's the difference: Rather than walking barefoot along the dirt roads to get from friend to friend and then to the beach, all these kids zoom around on golf carts. Most aren't even old enough to drive, but that doesn't stop their parents from giving them the keys to the E-Z-GO.
While I know there are many communities that have a tradition of golf carts as the main means of transportation, ours was never one of them. When I was their age (ah-hem) 25 years ago, only one family in the community owned a golf cart. That family had a disabled child, and that's why they had a cart. Now, it seems all the camps with teenage kids have carts. As do many others.
So, here it is: An open letter to the Parents of Golf Cart Kids. By the way, I'm fully aware that there are likely so few of these people, I could have just written a closed letter and handed it to all of them. But, "open letters" are as fashionable as golf carts these days. So, bear with me:
Dear Parents of the Golf Cart Kids,
I've seen your kids zooming around, going the places they think they need to get as quickly and easily as stepping on that electric cart's go peddle. I'm not writing to say they're going too fast, which they probably are. Or that the incessant buzzing of carts is ruining our family's quiet vacation, which it likely is. I'm writing on behalf of your kids.
You may think your helping these kids by giving them the keys to the golf cart, thus allowing them to zoom around the R.V. park, or the beach-front community, or the campground. But you're not.
Some of the best times had at places like these are on those long walks between all the things we just need to do. Trust me, I walked those paths.
More importantly, there's a lesson on those walks. It's not only the one about slowing down and taking it all in -- your surroundings and life. It's also about the value of earning something. When you walk to the beach, you appreciate it more. The sand is that much softer, and the water that much cooler.
When your kids just pile onto your new golf cart and speed off to their destination, they may get there a bit quicker. But they certainly miss the accomplishment, and may just miss why these summer places are so special.
So do your kids a favor; Make them walk.
There. Now I'm officially an old fart.