Now that we are home and (relatively) settled back in after our big trip (more on that later), I was able to spend some time searching the local library system for books I’ve been wanting to read. I’m always surprised by what they have in the system — and equally, by what they do not have. This title, Why Can’t We Just Play? What I Did When I Realized My Kids Were Way Too Busy,” by Pam Lobley, just happened to be sitting on the “New Books” shelf by the checkout desk, so I picked it up, and read it the same day.
It is an easy-to-read and entertaining book; Lobley is a good writer and there is plenty of wry humor sprinkled throughout. Her premise was to give her kids a “1950’s Summer” –one with no sports, camps, or other adult-structured activities –and the bulk of the book describes what they actually did that summer, and how everyone in the family reacted to it. Mixed in are her musings on the pace of family life today and the frustration and futility of trying to do/be/have it all, reflections on what life in the 50s was really like, and her regrets about how childhood has become a race to the finish line. I found myself agreeing with a lot of her points, although they weren’t particularly new thoughts.
Lobley did quite a bit of reading in her investigation into life in the 50s, and when she began investigating Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, I expected to disagree with her. However, interestingly, she focused on the role that advertisers played in trying to elevate and at the same time stifle the role of women, by making them professional consumers. There is much in Friedan’s book that I do not agree with, but this point is certainly one that was true at the time, and has only intensified in the present day. I appreciated that Lobley came to the conclusion that, if women were unfulfilled in the 50s, adding the demands of a professional career, to a plate already overloaded with domestic and personal responsibilities, has not exactly resulted in an epidemic of satisfaction.
Why Can’t We Just Play? is not particularly ground-breaking, but it addresses many current-day topics in an enjoyable and humorous way. By attempting a 1950s summer (a concept I find strange, since all the children I knew in the 80s and 90s spent summer the same way), Lobley creates an interesting juxtaposition, encouraging the reader to look at things from two perspectives. It makes a great summer read, while still addressing a meaningful issue, and provoking a thoughtful response from the reader.