What Childhood Once Was & Still Should Be: A Real Life | ScreenStrong

A Real Life: What Childhood Once Was and Still Should Be

by Dawn Poulterer Woods, ScreenStrong Ambassador

In days with lots of words and opinions, I have felt highly unmotivated to post thoughts on any digital platform. But this poem came to me yesterday in a matter of 20 minutes. I write it for parents of kids growing up in the technology age—don’t forget to teach your children the best things about childhood.


A Real Life

He called it a disorder,

and he meant it.


They want outlets for

cables and cords

supported by dependable,

electric currents.

Dark bedrooms,

with chargers pumping

the glow of screens,

the only light they need.

Stale air,

robotic noises,

and the ping of another



Not us.

We explored goldenrod fields

just beyond the property line.

We found soft stones

to skip on the reservoir.

We were on the hunt, always,

for turtles, goose eggs,

and signs of deer nearby.


It’s true.

We really did rake a pile of leaves

to jump into

before setting it on fire.


We really did set traps,

with long strings leading to our steady fingers.

We hid behind the bush

to see what bird we could catch,

only to set it free.


We really did chase fireflies

before stretching out on the cold ground

under shooting stars…

competing with each other to find

Orion’s Belt.


We really did build a fort

out of weed-entangled posts

from a old,deconstructed split-rail fence.


We really did design a secret room

in the loft of the barn,

with whatever we could haul up the ladder.

Bats flapped and darted above us…


We really did get called back indoors

by a cowbell on the side porch,

where we stocked the wood pile

for winter.


We really did stay out in the winter cold for hours,

and ride our bikes on the frozen lake,

engulfed in the silence of the snow.


No one knew where we were.

No one tracked us.


We imagined stories and scenarios

and we lived them.

We daydreamed,

and then we tried it.

We explored in real time…

we felt the wind, rain, snow, and sunshine

touch our faces.

We smelled the dirt,

and tasted the stem of the honeysuckle flower.


No one could diagnose us

with Nature Deficit Disorder.

We didn’t have plastic playgrounds

made to code.

We didn’t lock our bedroom doors

streaming Netflix in the dark.


We felt the ground under our bare feet,

and tasted blackberries off the bush.

We lived out our days

in the wonder of the earth while

our bedrooms sat vacant

waiting to give us

deep rest

and dreams of the sun rising,

awakening us again to



Dawn Poulterer Woods

August 16, 2020