April 21, 2011

The "Age of Safeness"

Ah yes, from the "Ice Age(s)" (it is said there were five of those) to the "Stone Age" to the "Age of Enlightenment" and the "Age of Reason" we have moved steadily onward and we, the people of today, are blessed because we are experiencing a whole bunch of "ages" in our own lifetime; the "Jet Age", the Space Age", the "Nuclear Age", the "Information Age", and let's not forget the Atomic Age". Well, it looks like we have been privileged to add another "age" to our resumes---the "Age of Safeness".

The "Age of Safeness" is the age where "safeness" rules and is held in place by its lynchpin, some strange beast called "zero tolerance". Of course, we all want to be safe and to feel safe but in our enthusiasm to grab the brass ring of complete safeness are we trading away some personal freedoms? We must be very, very careful---especially when it comes to our children. I mean, do we want them to grow up to be so paranoid about safety that they will be wrapping their kids in some not yet invented bubble wrap that is virtually impenetrable against all forms of danger?

Amazingly, under the "safeness umbrella for children", the New York State Legislature passed a law in 2009 to close a loophole that allowed too many indoor camp programs to operate without "oversight" (translated that means they were getting away without paying fees). So, in response to this law, the NY State Health Department made a list of "risky recreational activities" to keep kids safe. Such games as Wiffle Ball and freeze tag and kickball and Red Rover are now considered "dangerous and pose a significant risk of injury". WHATEVER!!!

Look folks, I grew up in New York City. The streets were our playground. When we played stick-ball, sewer caps and fenders or tires were our bases and we paused for a moment as cars went by.The black asphalt of the gutters was the roller rink where we skated and when we played tag we ran across streets, in between cars, climbed fire escapes and did all sorts of things that today might put our parents in jail for "child endangerment". As long as we were home in time for dinner, all was "good". Compared to today, I guess that would be considered extreme. If so, it seems we have reached the opposite end of the spectrum.

The point is, you have to let kids just play without your constant supervision, just a watchful eye. If their wiffle ball is taken away they will find a stick, crumple up some paper, and use that as a ball. Kids being allowed to just play allows them to grow emotionally, develops their social skills, and helps their inbred creativity begin to blossom. Kids will make up their own games and their own rules and then what they have been taught at home about fairness will begin to evidence itself. But if someone is always looking over their shoulder they are stifled.

So teach them right and wrong and fairness and good sportsmanship and then let them play. Let them learn the joy of winning and the disappointment of losing among their peers. It is good for them. They need to grow and develop and not have every breath they take monitored for safeness. A bruised knee or a bloodied nose unceremoniously received in a game of kickball will be a badge of honor. They will like it. So will their friends. And call or write your legislators and tell them to mind their own d--- business. You know what is best for your kids.

BTW---there was such an uproar over the NY health Department trying to implement their new regulations they have been put on hold--the people have spoken.