Over-protective parents spoil kids’ fun on playground

first_imgDon’t worry, Mom and Dad. I made sure to put on a helmet and shin pads before I typed up this column.I mean, typing on a computer is about as dangerous as a pillow fight against a stuffed animal, but you just can’t take any chances today.And have no fear, Grandma Betsy. When I go home tomorrow, I’ll be sure to crawl up the stairs. You know how dangerous those elevators can be. I’ve seen ’em in movies.Oh, and don’t complain about me not calling every once in a while. Calling on my cell phone? Do the words “malignant tumor in my brain” mean a wink to you? It’s much safer to communicate this way.Any of that stuff sound ridiculous? Of course it does. But none of that is nearly as preposterous as this doozy of a story coming out of Attleboro, Mass., about 40 miles south of Boston.School administrators — probably reacting to an absurd lawsuit or two — have officially suspended all life-threatening activity such as touch football, tag and walking.Well, maybe not that last one, but it’s currently under advisement at Willett Elementary School in Attleboro.No tag? No touch football? What, are these kids made of glass? I would hate to be a kid at a school with no contact, no competition, no fun. Just because one or two lousy parents whines about their kid being touched — touched, of all things! — by Snot-nose Charlie or Muddy-hands Marge during a harmless playground game.The school, in its formal ruling, banned “any other unsupervised chase game during recess,” afraid that kids could be hurt without anybody watching, which would leave the school or district liable for any such occurrence.According to Willett Elementary School principal Gaylene Heppe, recess time is “when accidents can happen.” Hey, I know exactly what she’s talking about. This one time, at recess, a girl ran up to me and just tapped — tapped! — me on the back. She must have thought I was playing tag, and when she realized I wasn’t in the game, she said, “cootie-brain!” and ran away. This accident was certainly a horrible event that has scarred me for life.It’s not too late to nominate Ms. Heppe as a presidential candidate for 2008, is it? Clearly, this is a lady who’s got her head in the right place!However, I probably shouldn’t single out Heppe for her thoughts; as a matter of fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if those words were placed directly into her mouth by the aforementioned snotty parents who think their kid would drop dead if he or she ate a bug.Some schools around Attleboro reportedly tried to get rid of dodgeball some years back, calling the game “exclusionary and dangerous.”Oh, come on! In the immortal words of Patches O’Houlihan: “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!” (Hey parents, calm down. I’m not actually suggesting the kids start flinging metal tools at one another. It was a joke, now clean up that Starbucks latte you just spilled all over the floor of your minivan).Here’s the thing: While I agree that maybe dodgeball or other games in elementary and middle school aren’t the safest of activities, there’s certainly a lot worse one can do. Bicycles aren’t safe; kids still ride those, right? How about skateboards? Those haven’t been outlawed? When kids play video games, things can get a little edgy: competition heats up, a controller or two goes flying across the room as somebody kicks the Xbox. What if someone pokes out an eye?Fact is, there isn’t much in life that doesn’t have a little danger that goes along with it. Every time you ride in a car, fly on an airplane, eat your food, go to sleep — you can never be perfectly safe. I can’t buy the belief that if kids at Willett Elementary School are shooting baskets, playing four-square, pushing each other on the swings or eating sand, they’re in any less danger than they would be by running around.Kids still play organized football, don’t they? And sure, they get hurt. But they recover, and usually learn a little something from being hurt. They get hurt playing youth sports, they get hurt playing tag — what difference does it make whether anybody’s watching or not?The problem, of course, lies with these parents who think they’ll be around their kids their entire lives. 24/7 surveillance, making sure that if their kid does get hurt, they can be the first ones on the scene. They seem to think if their child’s knee gets scraped, someone had better be there to help him or her within thirty seconds or their lives are at stake.These parents enjoy playing the “What if?” game. What if Johnny gets hurt? What if Johnny is scarred for life because he’s picked last for the football team? What if he gets hit in the face and never wants to play with his friends again? What if my Johnny has no friends? Oh, good heavens, what if my little Johnny, my baby, gets hurt?Uh, Mom, what if you let your kid grow up like a normal human being? Let kids be kids, and put down the phone; your lawyer’s tired of hearing from you.Celeste D’Elia, a Willett parent, said, “I’ve witnessed enough near collisions,” adding that “her son” feels safer because of the rule.Correction, Celeste: You feel safer. And your son misses out on being a kid. Shameful.Aaron is a sophomore who is headed to the Purdue game this weekend. Anybody who’s got any fun ideas for things to do in West Lafayette can contact him at abrenner@badgerherald.com.last_img read more