Rocky Hulne: Life lessons in the backyard

Published 6:01 pm Friday, March 22, 2024

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Just because you hear it all of the time, does not make it true.

I often hear the media complaining about how the next generation is doomed because of their phones, antisocial behavior and lazy habits.

It’s almost like I’m experiencing deja vu from when my generation was told we would fail because we were too attached to video games. Those games have stuck around much longer than our parents thought, but we’ve still managed to become adults. Well, some of us have.

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The point is, it’s easy and common to label the younger generation as lost and unmotivated, but it’s time for a reality check.

This last weekend, my teenage daughter started to make plans to plant a tree in our backyard and my teenage son asked me to buy him an agility ladder and cones, so he could practice for next football season. While both of them are no strangers to Tik Tok, and their brand of humor and entertainment often confuse me, their childhood is not that different from mine and they certainly aren’t afraid to get out and move.

Those thoughts passed through my mind as my son asked me to play catch with him in the backyard. First off, I think it’s awesome that he hasn’t gotten to the point that he’s too cool to play catch with his old man. Secondly, there is something relaxing about a father-son game of catch, whether it be with a baseball like the tear jerking ending of “Field of Dreams” or with a football, which is my favorite object to hurl back and forth.

As his arm gets stronger and mine grows weaker, it’s obvious to see how time has marched on. When we first began tossing the football in that same back yard, my son was a little tyke, who couldn’t catch the ball or throw further than five yards.

Now he’s making leaping grabs, and running wind sprints.

Being around kids does keep you young, but it also reminds you of how old you’ve gotten.

My ability to go up and grab a ball is nowhere near where it once was, when I used to regularly play touch football outside my dorms at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Back then, when the weather warmed up, our friend group would get out on the grass and play some touch football. Since the field was surrounded by dorms, it almost felt like we had an invested audience.


Now it’s my son’s turn to go out and play football with his friends and the feeling is bittersweet. It’s great to see his passion, but it is also a sign of the changing of the guard.

But that’s life. Nothing stays the same for long and the sooner you accept it, the happier you’ll be.