Sunday, October 4, 2009

Child's Play

I think that we have become more nervous as a society. Parents watch over their child's every move, thinking of how to cushion the fall they are sure is coming at any moment. Schools are more nervous, too. Play areas on school grounds are made of the highest quality, strongest, plastic-type stuff material that I assume takes great impacts without breaking small bones. It looks like something originally designed by NASA, and of course, it's all very brightly colored. The area under the play gyms and swings and slides is always padded in some way. Sand seems to out of favor these days, replacing it is a layer or two of wood chips. Wood chips look more dangerous to me, but I am of the nervous generation who can imagine things like splinters and wood chips impaled in an eyeball.

When I was in elementary school, we had a playground. It had no swings, no slides, no jungle gyms. It was paved in good old-fashioned asphalt and promised a properly scraped knee or worse to anyone who failed to keep upright while running over its surface. In fact, running and hopscotch were pretty much the only things you could do on this playground. Perhaps you could get a game of "tag" going (running) or dodge ball (running, getting hit by balls, falling down). When I think back on it, I am amazed we weren't all injured daily.

I have thought about it and decided it isn't really possible that today's children are more fragile than those of yesteryear. The only real difference is our level of concern for their safety, which now extends to trying to make sure they never fall down, never trip while running, never get a scrape or need all those bandages we fill medicine chests with. The reason is simple: it's the adults who have become more fragile. We can't stand the thought of seeing our children in even the slightest pain.

On some level I know my children will survive the usual bumps and thumps of childhood play, but I wonder at times if I will.

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