Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Childhood (at any age) is supposed to be fun

Via Instapundit, I've come across the discussion of Potato Guns! Dr. Helen (the Instapundit's insta-wife) chooses this icon to bring about reminiscences of happy gadding about, before the day of video games and child predation cares locked kids into the shape of the mashed taters Richard Dreyfuss heaps upon his plate in "Close Encounters".

I dunno. I tend to think there were always parents who spend too much energy trying to protect their kids from life's little hazards. Of course, the poor kid with the overprotective mommy was usually, in our neighborhood, the kid with the thick glasses and the asthma (the one who wasn't me). My mom always chased us outside to play, even when we were in our late teens. We were blessed, though, to live in a little dink town where we could play frisbee for hours, right in the middle of the street, and be interrupted by a car, maybe twice in an afternoon.

But some of the commenters at Dr. Helen's post are on the right track. These days, when the Child Protective Services have any sway at all, kids aren't allowed to play in any environment, for fear that some great agony awaits. Playground surfaces are now made out of recycled rubber tires, so that when a kid takes a dive off the "fort", he will only bounce a little. I took a dive headfirst from the top of a slied onto a cinder-covered ground below, and look at me... uh, on second thought, look at my younger sister. She broke her nose and bashed in her face in a big fall from the monkey bars when she was in first grade, and she turned out (a) great-looking, (b) really smart, and (c) the best-adjusted woman I've ever encountered -- without any surgical or psychiatric assistance.

Yeah, I insist that, when my nephews ride their bicycles in my neighborhood, the wear helmets, but I'm not a complete goof. I let them go exploring. I trust they will do stupid things, because they're kids. I also trust that they will have fun, and they will keep their eyes and minds open. They spent a summer here (at the grandparents' house, since mine is too chaotic even for a pair of pre-adolescent males), not long ago, and probably spent no more than ten combined hours the entire two months, playing on their GameBoys. They were out. A lot. Playing.

Having no kids of my own, one might think I'd be an old fuddy-duddy or some squishy-hearted granny. Somewhere in here, there's probably a little of each, but more of me is stuck in "what the hell can it hurt?" mode, when the neighbors' kids ask if they can climb my tree or play in the puddle in the alley.

I'd hate to be stuck in a boring room with nothing but a screen to amuse me... uh...

Gotta go, now. Stuff to do. yeah... that's right. Stuff. Busy busy busy.

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