Archive for the ‘childhood play’ Tag

The Safety Brigade: Protecting Kids Everywhere from Adventure!   2 comments

 

“How do you like to go up in a swing?  Up in the air so blue?  Oh I do think it is the most pleasantest thing ever a child can do!”  This little poem was written by Robert Louis Stevenson and captures the childhood joy of the simple act of swinging.  But – obviously Mr. Stevenson has not been on a swing recently.

Gone are the days when playgrounds had swings on super long chains (I’m not good at gauging actual lengths – so I’ll go with super long verses super short) that really did allow you to go “up in the air so blue.”  If you were pushing a child on one of those swings, you’d have time to lay out a picnic lunch before they would make it back to you for another push!

 But along came… the Safety Brigade!  They consisted of helicopter moms, armed with bubble wrap, who alerted their communities about the dangers lurking in local playgrounds.  They investigated and saw that the slides were too high and too fast.  They determined merry-go-rounds were a death trap and that the big, metal giraffe was, well… big and metal! (remember those?) 

Well – the safety brigade won their battle and playgrounds all across American were stripped of fun, unique, stuff.  Now, playgrounds everywhere look the same – colorful, plastic slides that are slow as sludge, swings that are so short you’d better not blink when pushing a kid because they’ll be on the return from that push in a nano second and knock you in the face.  I remember when I was a kid every park in our town had different equipment.  One park had circus themed equipment – an elephant slide and an old circus wagon.  Another park had a slide shaped like a rocket that you climbed up inside to reach the top.  Our elementary school had giant, cement cylinders in its playground.  Cool stuff. 

The argument is that kids were hurt on that old equipment – the swings were too high and someone could fall and break their neck.  True.  The slides were too high and someone could fall and break their neck.  True.  But if you want adventure in life – it comes with risk. Even everyday mundane activities can be dangerous.  People choke to death eating.  Someone may slip in their bathtub and be seriously hurt.  Thousands of people every year die from taking medications.  Yet, we continue to eat, bathe and take medications because it is part of life.  Childhood fun and adventure was once a normal part of life taken for granted.  But now that adventure has been made ultra safe, sanitized and occurs under the ever watchful eye of an adult – who often times is literally hovering over the child.   

There is one park left in our town that still has those giant swings and I will get on one and enjoy the feeling of literally sailing through the air.  The height gained on those gems is such that you can feel the strong pull of gravity on your body after that split second of weightlessness.  That feeling just isn’t there at the end of a six foot chain.  So when we head to this park I always glance behind me to make sure a member of the Safety Brigade isn’t following – ready to snatch up one of the last remaining treasures from American playgrounds and robbing kids everywhere of the chance to experience the simple joy expressed in Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem.

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Lessons from Charlotte’s Web   1 comment

 Books are an amazing thing. They speak to us and what we hear may be determined where we are at in life. A phrase may swiftly be read over in one reading, but may jump out at us when read again at another time.

 I recently read Charlotte’s Web for the fourth time.  Years ago I first read it to my now nineteen year old and continued on through our children to the present, where my four and seven year olds enjoyed this sweet tale. I have been at different stages in my adult life at each of the readings and with this most recent one, some of the book’s wisdom had resounded with me.

At one point in the story, Wilbur, the pig, is making plans for his day. For one hour he planned to stand perfectly still and think of what it is to be alive. What wisdom we can learn from simple Wilbur. We are a culture of doing and we seldom learn to just ‘be’.  Can most of us even imagine just ‘being’ for one hour in today’s world?  We may have a lot of down time sitting in front of the tv or computer, but to just ‘be’ and meditate on what it is to be alive, as Wilbur suggested, is something foreign to most of us.  In our doing culture we want to be productive and see the immediate results of how our time has been spent.  When we take the time to ‘be’ we are able to reflect on life, connect with God, and learn more about ourselves.  Those results generally are not seen immediately, but over time we see we are more closely connected with God and walk through life with an inner peace. Wilbur understood what God has been telling us in his Word; “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalm 23:2 KJV).

What about our children? Does our culture allow for them to enjoy the green pastures and still waters? In the story, eight year old Fern spends her afternoons sitting in the barnyard watching the animals. What a wonderful way for a child to spend her time. If Fern were a child today her days may look very different; soccer practice on Monday, dance on Tuesday, soccer practice on Wednesday, piano lesson and soccer practice on Thursday with McDonalds in the van on the way to Girl Scouts, soccer game on Friday and attending her brother’s swim meet all day on Saturday. In a culture of doing and achieving, a schedule like that is a reality for many children and it makes for long days if they have already spent much of it in school.  Even when children are home, they are bombarded with constant media presence – computer, Wii, facebook, tv, ipod, texting – the lure of these things is strong and it’s easy to keep our minds occupied at all times with, for the most part, useless garbage.  We push our children to do and accomplish, and equipt them with technology, yet we forget they need time for quiet reflection and at times, to just sit and observe the world. 

Sometimes it takes the simplest among us, like a barn yard pig, to remind us to step back and listen to what God has been telling us all along.

Posted February 22, 2011 by The Nonconformist Mom in childhood

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