File this under: Lessons I learned over Christmas break.

A couple hours after brunch on Christmas day, my mom and I went for a long walk around the neighborhood. (Which is something you can do when you spend Christmas in southwest Florida, and the temp is a bone-chilling 85 degrees. Brrr.)

About mid-way through the walk, I started thinking about Christmas day when I was 12 or 13, the age of my niece Karlee. Back then, I could barely wait for everyone to clear out so I could grab whatever new bike/scooter/glove/bat Santa brought and head outside to test it. You couldn’t walk 10 feet in my neighborhood without running into a group of kids playing in the street.

But this year, I noticed something very different: absolute quiet. Twenty minutes into our walk, I hadn’t seen a single kid. “Where is everyone?” I asked my mom. “Did all the families with young kids move out of the neighborhood?”

“There are tons of kids in the neighborhood,” she said. “But they’re all inside playing Wii and downloading music onto their new laptops.” (These were the two big gifts Santa had brought my niece.)

Wow. There you go.

My friends and colleagues and I talk a lot about the childhood obesity epidemic and how kids aren’t getting outside enough anymore. About the depressing fact that schools are cutting gym classes and after-school sports activities, but continue filling cafeterias with candy and soda machines. But until Christmas day, I always thought this was something that happened in other cities, where it is too cold to play outside, or the city is too dangerous for playing in the street. I never thought this was happening where I grew up. In a city with perfect weather nearly 300 days a year.

Talk about a Christmas buzzkill.

Leave a Comment