Is it possible that the parenting guru my generation so desperately needs is a dude who sells used car parts out of a store in East L.A.? Can it be that George Monroy with his goatee and receding hairline—who gave his 9 year-old some cardboard boxes, a pair of scissors, a really big packing tape dispenser and said to his son “Go!”—is a child-rearing genius?
It is possible. Because here is what a nine year-old named Caine Monroy did last summer vacation during the weekdays: nothing. He didn’t have summer camp, swimming lessons, soccer league, violin practice, a Mandarin tutor or anything that could even remotely be called an “enrichment activity.” He was not chauffeured around by his parents, babysitter or nanny on trips to a museum, to the zoo, or to any local historical sites of note. Other than what I suspect were several trips to Shakey’s Pizza and time spent in the Shakey’s Pizza arcade, this is how Caine Monroy spent a lot of his time last summer vacation: He played. And out of his unstructured playtime came the amazing, highly complex, wildly creative and now truly viral phenomena known as Caine’s Arcade.