One of the most e-mailed items on the New York Times website in the summer of 2011 was a commentary making the argument that too much time spent 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.