This boy, now ten years old, comes to the office for his annual physical exam. His mother relaxes quietly in the corner chair. This is her second child, the younger of two sons. She’s been through this drill before.
“How are you doing this year?” I ask him.
“Fine,” he says.
“Fine up until a month ago,” his mother chimes in. “He used to be a straight A student. Lately his grades have dropped a bit.”
I raise my eyebrows. “What happened?” I ask the boy. He merely shrugs his shoulders.
“Spring, that’s what happened,” his mother says, smiling. “Really, I’m not too concerned. He’s outside every day now that the weather’s nice.”
“You like to go outside?” I ask the boy. He nods his head. “What do you like to do?”
“Catch frogs,” he says with a big grin.
“Really?” I say. “What kind of frogs do you catch? Bullfrogs?”
“Any kind,” he says.
“How do you catch them?”
“I’ve got a net. I scoop them out of the pond in the woods behind our house.”
“What do you do with them—make frog legs for dinner?”
He laughs. “No, I put them in my terrarium and feed them bugs.”
“He likes to play outside,” his mother says. “I think it’s good for him. We enrolled our first son in every extracurricular activity available. He played soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring, went to camp in the summer. We were literally exhausted from running here and there every night of the week. It’s different with your second child; you learn to let go. In a way I think he’s happier, too.”
“Good for you. Sounds like everyone is benefiting from your new approach.”
I complete the exam and pronounce the boy to be in good health. “You can get dressed and head out,” I tell him. “There’s still plenty of daylight left to play outside.”
I step out of the exam room and walk to the front office to dispose of the paperwork. How refreshing to see a kid enjoying an old-fashioned boyhood, I think—plenty of fresh air and activity, eager to explore the natural world, hands-on experiences in the outdoors—far removed from the endless string of video games, TV shows, cell phone chatter and Facebook posts—the kind of boyhood I had myself.
As I turn to retrace my steps, the boy flies by me in the hallway. Eyes glued to the electronic device in his hands, he almost bowls me over. My late afternoon reverie is too good to last.
“Checking your e-mail?” I ask, watching his fingers fly deftly across the tiny rows of buttons.
“Naw. I’m texting my friend to ask if he can meet me at the pond in the woods to catch frogs.”
“He’s all boy,” his mother smiles, as she follows him down the hallway and out the front door.