Sun In Your Eyes

I see that one of the most e-mailed items on the New York Times website lately is a commentary that makes the argument that spending too much time in weak indoor light has caused more children than ever to be nearsighted. The article contends that something about the proper development of our eyes requires us to spend time in sunlight.

This alarming thought runs completely against the cautious parenting I did when my son was young. He was a fair skinned child, and I was vigilant about exposure. I may have even cast the sun as a master villain, along the lines of The Joker or Dr. Strangelove. Diabolical. Powerful. Merciless. The sun was something to be viewed suspiciously, and by “viewed”, I mean, never ever looked at directly.

Now parents will have to take a more nuanced approach. How are our kids supposed to feel about the sun? It’s complicated.
Perhaps this calls for a children’s poem.

Go play outside or you’re going to go blind.
The sunshine will help you to bloom.
Your lenses and retinas might misalign
if you do not come out of your room.

Our bodies are built to be active outside.
Doing running and swimming and games.
The sun is your friend. He’s your comfort and guide.
But please don’t look into his flames.

And sunblock your neck and the tip of each ear
and your shoulders and legs and your head
the tops of your feet. And please cover your rear.
Or the sun will re-color you red.

Go into the light but stay out of the glare
have fun but be safe while you play.
Get some sun. Cover up. Be carefree. Be aware.
And do everything just as I say.

What did your parents tell you never, ever to do?

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83 thoughts on “Sun In Your Eyes”

  1. heard a great radio show on mpr yesterdayat noon on a guy who spoke at the arboretum on the topic of nature be deficit disorder and how doctors should be allowed to prescribe outdoor activity the same way they perscribe drugs because it is so needed today.
    my parents told me never to take candy from that nice man who walked around our neighborhood with candy in his pockets for kids. they told me i couldn’t look at the sun during an eclipse or id go blind (the slit in the cardboard only served as a vehicle to make me want to look up and see it more) dont wear sox two days in arow without washing,(shirts and pants are ok)
    fun poem dale. hey i got a chance to stick my head in at the kfai shindig on sunday but missed you by a minute or two. nice group, great reggae band, followed by an interesting group with some ethnic violin cousin and an arab influenced musical scale that rocked pretty good too. got my palm read and had a beer and then back to fastpitch in the rain in east bethel on a wonderful fathers day. i do really like the new station. kfai has lots of personality and it is a treat to learn it.

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    1. nature deficit disorder. i don’t know where the be came from:
      Creating a balance between technology and nature
      Author and journalist Richard Louv speaks at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum about his new book, “The Nature Principle.” Louv started a movement to help children reconnect with nature and coined the term “nature deficit-disorder” in his best-selling book, “Last Child in the Woods.”
      12:00 p.m.
      from yesterday

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      1. ‘Nature deficit disorder.’ That’s as good as ‘G-force poisoning.’ Had to deal with that one once…

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      2. I recall reading an article about this when Daughter was a toddler. Made a vow then to make sure she had plenty of time outside, and plenty of time outside by herself to explore without an adult in direct supervision. It’s fun to see what she discovers when she’s out and about on the block or in the yard – she often has some new treasure or unusual something that needs to be shared (sometimes it’s a “Mom, come look at this thing in the neighbor’s yard…what is it?”).

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      3. Nice! I lead a preschool music class that is heavy on nature (we listen to different sounds and match to pictures on a card, among many other activities) Tomorrow I have 2 classes, and if the grass is dry they will be outside!

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  2. Just yesterday I saw an article about Solar Gazing – apparently there was a show on the Documentary Channel last night. These folks believe that gazing directly at the sun is a deep spiritual practice and that your body can convert the sunlight coming through your eyes to energy.

    Of course, my parents told me the same things as most of your parents… don’t look directly at the sun.
    Don’t run with scissors.
    Don’t talk to strangers.
    Don’t argue with your sister – you sound like fishwives.

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      1. I didn’t fight with my little sister much, but now and then we would get on each other’s nerves, like maybe on a ten-hour car trip. My parents had zero tolerance for that kind of stuff. On the rare occasion when we got cranky with each other, my folks would say, “Oh, hush! You two sound like Bill and Lynne!”

        OMG! Bill and Lynn were kids born to my parents’ friends, Gus and Laurie. They fought non-stop in a permanent sideshow of vulgarity and mutual loathing. I think my parents only twice said that Nancy and I sounded like Bill and Lynne, but both times it silenced us absolutely because we couldn’t imagine anything more horrible than sounding like Bill and Lynne.

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      1. I don’t know where my mom got this… I never heard my grandmother say it… but it was a constant. Both of my folks had kind of a crappy time growing up and it was always a HUGE deal that we be a happy family. So whenever my sister and I would get in a tussle (which was often – we’re not much alike), my mom would tell us we sounded live fishwives!

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  3. Rise and bask in the Sunshine Baboons!

    That is a very nice poem, Dale. I think it should become a parents’ anthem. Children will appreciate being nagged in a nicer meter.

    I don’t remember my parents being very fearful, and we certainly spent a great deal of time outside in the sunshine. But I am still pretty nearsighted. However, those were the days of playing outside all day in a small town. If you got into trouble someone would inform your parents before you got home.

    The only long-term warning we got was GET AN EDUCATION SO YOU CAN GET A JOB!

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    1. Ah, just thought of one. Don’t watch cartoons, read comic books, or play pinball. They are a waste of time. So of course we spent every possible moment when mom was out of the house watching cartoons and posting one of the three of us as “lookout” so we could quickly turn off the tv.

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      1. I can well remember spending summer mornings watching cartoons over a bucket of peas to shell or beans to cut. You could watch tv as long as you were working (and don’t let your pace slacken either, or that tv is going off!)

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  4. Good morning to all:

    What I remember the most about what I shouldn’t do as a child has to do with manners. Don’t forget to say “thank you” and “please”. Swearing was a no no. There weren’t a lot things I shouldn’t do to be safe. I roamed the nieghborhood freely. I probably should have had more limits put on my roaming. Coming home late for diner wasn’t appreciated.

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    1. my recall was dinner was a 10 minute stop in the day. hamburger and corn then back out to play. all summer anyway the winter was a bit different but only a bit. i remember the first time i said shit to my mom i did get my mouth washed out with soap. may be the only time i tasted it. (i was a quick learner) we had a grat lp called manners can be fun that had great songs to teach you all the please and thank you stuff, picking up your room, be nice to your friends stuff. i’d like to hear it again. it was a big part of my childhood. bouncing p and down n the basement couch listening to my fair lady, oklahoma, and manners can be fun. life in the late 50’s early 60’s was a bit different than today. cartoon an a 6 am on weekdays for an hour then captain kangaroo then saturday morning for 3 hours. other than that tv was for adults, soap operas and news. outside was an escape form boredom, boredom doesn’texist anymore. preoccupation with crap is the issue today. dont get me started.
      hoping to golf between raindrops with a business group today but i have my doubts.

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      1. I remember my only discretion that led to having my mouth washed out with soap. Actually now that I think about it, I remember the washing, but don’t remember exactly what I said to get the washing! I was 5.

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    2. I had a book, that I think was my mother’s before it was mine, called “Manners Can Be Fun” by Munro Leaf with some great drawings in it, including one with kids with springy necks from looking around too much and not paying attention. I also remember being admonished by my father for saying “fart” – nice little girls do not use that sort of language I was told…

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      1. Parenting seems infinitely more complicated when the annual temp variation goes from +30*C to -30*C. Only in the last year did I start noticing the little shed things at the end of rural driveways that I’m told are for kids waiting for the schoolbus in the winter… “if you’re lucky”.

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    1. Mom told me that my face would freeze ‘that way’ once. I kept it up all afternoon. It didn’t work.

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  5. Don’t sit too close to the television, it’ll ruin your eyes. Don’t use the word “ain’t.” If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything. And in the opposite: if you can help someone, help however you can – and dress up for church and cultural events, it’s a sign of respect.

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    1. Well, if we’re going to get into language…. Say “perspire” instead of “sweat” and “bottom” instead of “butt”. I think I’ve already told the story about my dad and “get/got”, but that was a biggie at our house!

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      1. A friend was instructed by her grandmother (who also preferred “dainty” words) to, “wash up as far as possible, wash down as far as possible, and then wash possible” (while bathing).

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  6. Oh, my! It was a long time ago, and the world was so different. When I was a kid, nobody wore knee pads to go skating. Nobody had a helmet to protect us when we fell off our bikes. We played games (like “the splits”) that used real knives that we threw near each other’s feet. My mom never had the least idea of where I was or what I was doing, so she didn’t tell me I shouldn’t put my little buddy Billy up against an archery target and shoot arrows all around his body the way I’d seen in a cowboy movie. Nobody was worried about weird men in raincoats, and even girls felt free to pedal bicycles anywhere they chose to go.

    My first inclination is to say my parents never told me I shouldn’t do anything unsafe. I think they trusted me, which was foolish, and yet nothing bad ever happened until Mike Van Scoy stuck that arrow in my right foot. As I look back on those days, it seems that my parents loved me but were too preoccupied with adult stuff to pay me much attention. I can’t remember them ever telling me not to do some unsafe thing.

    But, yes, they did say that I should never, ever do some things. Specifically, I was forbidden to ever say anything that was unkind, and I was trained to be extra careful with my mother because “she had had a bad war” and was given to falling into pits of anxiety. So while I was never told to avoid looking directly at the sun, I was told to avoid being late coming home because my mother could fall apart when a family member was missing.

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  7. My father told me in all seriousness to never marry and oboe player, since they had to blow so hard on the oboe they lost their minds. . My mother told me to never marry a doctor, as they were never home.

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    1. My mom also told me never to get married until I was older than 19. She was 19 when she got married (a war bride) and wished she had more time to finish college. They will celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary this Christmas Day.

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    2. About marrying a doctor – your mother was right. Also doctors often have no social lives, because the people they know are usually other doctors.

      This pathologist/cancer diagnosis parody video from the University of Florida is making the Facebook rounds in my professional circles, in case you wanted to know what I do:

      (pardon the audio — as my ex-mixer husband says “it sounds like AutoTune broke”)

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      1. My wife used to be a medical secretary in Pathology… I recognized some of those phrases. Yeah, the audio wasn’t the best but it is You Tube after all…

        Some of her favorite docs have set up their own practice in the MSP area.

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      2. Oooh now you’re making me run mental lists of all the path secretaries I worked with in the MSP area (2005-2009).

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      3. now i know aath you do. thanks mn sudbury. is canada a better plae for you to get a chance to do that than in mn? i would think mayo or u of m research would be good spots

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      4. MN in Sudbury,
        My bad; We’re down in Rochester, my wife has always worked at Mayo. But some of her docs from here left to start a practice up there…
        Are you a doc?

        Shall we gossip?? (bkhain – at – aol.com)

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  8. I remember, at a fairly young age, being told not to look at the sun during a solar eclipse. And since it was unthinkable that my siblings and I would actually spend time inside during a non-rainy summer day, I walked around staring fixedly at the ground so I wouldn’t accidentally look directly at the solar eclipse. My parents didn’t lay down very many ultimatums so I guess when my mom told me that, I really took it to heart.

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  9. Don’t pick your nose.
    Don’t take off your clothes.
    Don’t get muddy.
    Don’t make a big mess.
    Don’t fight with your sister.
    Don’t take stuff from the Little Store without paying. (I did this one time and had to take it back and apologize.)
    Don’t hurt anybody’s feelings.
    Don’t go barefoot where you don’t know the terrain. (I loved to be barefoot.)
    Turn off that dumb TV – look, it’s a gorgeous day out there.
    …and I’m sure Don’t look at the sun was in there.
    But I was mostly a very sensible kid, played the big sister setting an example, and didn’t get into much trouble.

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      1. Wow,there really was a Little Store chain? Mine was just a family store down the street that we called the Little Store, actually named something like Jake’s…

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  10. Morning–

    Mom didn’t like the word ‘stupid’ so “Don’t say that”. Also “Don’t go in with the bull”. That was always a big one; we never had Holstein bulls (the most unpredictable breed) but still; don’t poke the bull…

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      1. Tenth grade science class and the benches with an electrical outlet in the middle of the desk. While the teacher talked the Rowdy kid in the back row stuck separate pieces of foil into each side of the outlet then used a pencil to touch them together.
        I distinctly remember the blue FLASH and ‘PHUU’ noise and it scared the kid more than even he imagined. Just about fell over backward in his chair.
        The teacher didn’t freak out… walked back there and scowled at him… said ‘Well now you’ve learned’ and went back to teaching.

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      2. My folks still have the table knife with the melted part of the edge that Dad was using as a screwdriver while fixing the kitchen light fixture.

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    1. When I was pretty little, my dad, for some reason, let me have a special scewdriver that you could stick in an outlet that let you know by lighting up if the outlet was live. I sure had fun with that. It made my mom pretty nervous.

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      1. Renee… you OK where you are? Assuming so since you’re blogging. Reading the news from Minot this morning. Nasty.

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      2. We are just fine here. Its is tragic in Minot, which is about 3 hours northeast of us. Bismarck is holding its own. The water in Bismarck is staggering. I had to drive there on Monday.

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  11. “Don’t get lost or someone will kidnap you and cut your kidneys out.”
    Though that might have been an aunt.

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    1. Frank Dreben, Police Squad: “You take a chance getting up in the morning, crossing the street, or sticking your face in a fan.”

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  12. I just re-read Dale’s wonderful poem. He mentions the fear that too much son will result ina red rear. Do you think that’s what happened to Blevins?

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  13. I just re-read Dale’s wonderful poem. He mentions the fear that too much sun will result in a red rear. Do you think that’s what happened to Blevins?

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  14. Man, I really feel as if I miss the heat of the discussion when I enter so late in the day. Summer break starts in a few days. Can’t wait!

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