Fall Letter 2011

Dear Parents,

I was never a dog person. So it took a lot of time and persuasion before I finally agreed to let my son, Will, have the pet of his dreams – a Golden Retriever named Tucker. I gave in and brought a canine into our lives for one reason – and one reason alone – to motivate my eight-year-old boy to get off the couch and out the door.

Many parents struggle with what their family has gone through. In fact, the statistics are startling: American kids spend on average only four to seven minutes outside each day. The vast majority of their time – close to eight hours a day according to one national report – is in front of electronic screens: televisions, computers or various handheld devices. Given all of that, it should come as no surprise that childhood obesity rates have skyrocketed.

In an effort to get Will active, I have spent countless hours arranging play dates, driving him to and from karate classes, swimming lessons, basketball games and soccer practice. Yet, in spite of my good intentions, and much to my dismay, my son labels most of these activities as “lame.”

Tucker was my last resort to get Will outside – without a pre-arranged play date or class. With a six-month-old puppy, there is no more debate over forced activities. The dog looks at my son and signals he wants out – outside in the sunshine for a romp around the backyard.

Yes, much of the time, I am the one playing catch and fetch or walking the dog while Will rides alongside us on his bike. But we are getting outside together. Will is more active than he has ever been and Tucker is one happy puppy.

Adjusting to life with Tucker has been no easy task. What with potty training, deworming, obedience class (he didn’t really pay attention) and 5 am wake-up calls, I have spent more time and energy – and oh, yes, money – than I ever thought possible.

But, this new, big baby will stay a part of our family. Tucker has helped my son simply get outside and play. I love to watch Will run, play catch and throw sticks in the stream with his new dog.

At night, I am so happy that the computer and television are off and Will is content just to interact with his dog. Will mostly talks to Tucker in French and I have no idea what he is saying. But I understand exactly what he is communicating when he kisses and hugs the dog’s furry head.

With spring weather finally upon us, I encourage you to discover ways that will motivate your children to disconnect from electronic gadgets, get outside and do what all youngsters need for healthy growth and development: play – simple and free.

Warm regards,

Linda Ciampa, RN