Another Part of Childhood Has Been Cancelled

October 16, 2013

You may have seen it in the news.  Recess is

A school in New York recently made headlines by banning traditional sports balls from recess (allowing soft Nerf balls instead) as well as games of tag, cartwheels and other forms of “unorganized” play.

And although this is just one school, it is happening everywhere.  Schools in my own city are doing the same thing.  No soccer balls or footballs.  No rough games.  Basically, no fun.

Now, I’m not saying that a trip to the ER is my idea of fun.  But the issue that is raised in my mind is the negative and downright false lessons our kids our learning from our hyper-vigilant safety crusade.

What could be so bad about keeping our kids from getting hurt?  How about this…

The Illusion of Safety

I’d like to point out the obvious irony: that while schools are banning playground fun, they say nothing about banning organized forms of violent, dangerous sports, presumably because these activities actually make money for schools.  Football is just about the most dangerous, unhealthy sport there is, but it’s a golden goose, so we’re going to do everything we can to keep it going.

But tag, you’re out.

What I think is happening as we try to bubble wrap our kids and protect them from every conceivable danger is that we are giving them the false sense that they are completely safe.  Sure, we all want to feel reasonably safe.  And I don’t go walking around in parking garages at night more often than necessary.  But the world is just a dangerous place, no matter what we do.  More than falsely telling kids that they are completely safe, thanks to the adults’ intrepid efforts, they need to know how to be prepared to judge, react and adapt to dangerous situations, to know when a game of tag is too rough or a parking garage too suspicious.

The Illusion of Control

Another little tidbit: Safe Kids Worldwide reports that 1.35 million children are brought to the ER every year, for everything from bruises and scrapes to concussions (which make up 12 percent of ER visits.)  Just who on Earth is taking their child to the hospital for a scrape or bruise?

Our culture is in love with the illusion of control.  We love to eliminate every variable we can, to sterilize and anesthetize our environment.  See, control is what we want.  The feeling of safety is our feedback, our reward that tells us we are in control.  If we feel safe, then we feel that we have adequately controlled our environment.  If we do not feel safe, then we feel the need to regain control.  We allow our governments, both local and federal to watch us through cameras and email.  Why?  To give us the sense that they are in control of our environment.  We feel safe from whatever danger they tell us they are preventing, and we accept this.

If there is one thing my wife and I have learned, particularly going through infertility treatments, is that control is an illusion.  There are a million, unseen, unpredictable variables in the world.  For us, we can do some treatment, spend some money, but we can’t play God.  The results are still in God’s hands.  We are not in control of our environment, our relationships, the economy, or really much of anything else past our own noses.  And to give kids the idea that they can control the world and that feeling safe is an adequate indicator that they are in control is just false.

The Worst Thing in the World

Finally, there is a lesson, hard to learn, but only grasped when one gets truly hurt:

The lesson is that getting hurt is not the worst thing in the world.

Sure, there are catastrophes.  I’m not talking about those.  I’m talking about the everyday injuries.

Bodies were made to be bruised.

Hearts were made to be broken.

And I would say that an injury of the heart or spirit is far worse than a broken bone.  But the wonderful thing about our bodies and our hearts is that they heal.  We are far more resilient, far less fragile than we give ourselves credit for.  This life does not consist of avoiding every possible danger, but confronting danger, taking the hits, bearing the scars.

And the great thing about our God is that He never promises safety or absolute protection.  But He promises that He’ll be there when we do get hit.  He will provide the healing from our worst hurts.

What do you think?  Is injury a necessary part of being human, of growing up?

8 responses to Another Part of Childhood Has Been Cancelled

  1. I once was told that our school was striving for a “no fail classroom” where kids were never told “no”. I laughed. One, it is impossible and two, they needed to learn how to get up and move on after falling down.

    Let me add “not fighting in front of the kids”. If a couple have a healthy relationship and occasionally disagree, the kids should see it. How are they going to learn that a loving couple can handle conflict if it isn’t modeled to them?

    Now if you are in a terrible fight-every-night-cause-my-spouse-is-a-jerk relationship, you can try to hide it but I’m pretty sure the kids know a fight is going on.

    • I always felt pressure not to argue in front of the kids, but then I realized that if we don’t show them that you can argue and be mad, but still come back and apologize and love each other, who will? Eventually, they’ll get married and think that you’re not supposed to fight ever and when they do, I suppose divorce would be a viable alternative.
      Brina recently posted..The Waiting Room

  2. From a slightly different perspective…I haven’t read the article, but I worked as a recess aide for a couple of years, and I think the larger issue was the respect (or lack thereof) the kids had for others. Yes, some kids are bigger and stronger than others, but if they are also “mean” and look for someone to single out or pummel with a dodgeball, then maybe a line has to be drawn. If they don’t have respect instilled in them, to know when they are hurting someone else, or being too rough, well… I don’t necessarily think taking games away from everyone is the answer though. Along with what you said about football, for example, the NFL is just now starting to look at how serious some of the injuries are. Concussions lead to other long-term health issues. It is the nature of the sport, but are there guidelines or penalties for those who abuse the use of these games/balls/etc?

    To answer your question – finally! – God created these bodies that do heal, so I’m sure He knew there would be injuries. I think scrapes and bruises and the occasional broken bone are a normal part of living – but I go back to the respect issue: If people don’t respect and learn to care for one another, then all the rules in the world aren’t going to protect us…. (getting off my soapbox now…) :)

    • Dawn and Holly are both what I would call “common sense” thinkers. This is what’s needed in today’s world so we don’t cause our kids irreparable harm as they grow into respectful and caring adults. The best way to accomplish this is by setting the best example possible for them to emulate.

      Thank you for your commentary.

  3. My concern is that it doesn’t stop at recess. We don’t just want to protect them from becoming physically injured. We don’t want anyone or anything to hurt them in any way ever. Parents tend to believe that their children are nearly perfect. I think of a couple of stories recently, the first about those teens that broke into, partied and pretty much destroyed a home in upstate New York. Their parents were more horrified by the kids being publicly shamed when the owner of the home posted pictures from Twitter and FB onto a website. Then the 14 year old girl that likely helped bully a 12 year old girl to the point of a successfull suicide. Her parents say their daughter would never do that despite evidence that says otherwise.

    In our efforts to protect our children from anything and everything, we’ve shielded them from life lessons. They don’t know how to respect others because parents intervene when it seems like a teacher or family member or friend might hurt little Hunter’s feelings. We leave in a huff when our little Sophia isn’t treated fairly. So, there are no more sleepovers (6th grade camp at my son’s school comes with a day camp option for the parents that don’t let their children stay anywhere overnight).

    We think we’re helping them, but we are not. I don’t let my children cry bully every time they get picked on. We discuss the circumstances, the kid involved and how my child can respond. Running to the teacher right away isn’t usually the answer. It’s by no means my job to toughen my kids up, but it is my job to teach THEM how to navigate THEIR life as their age dictates. They need room to safely get hurt and fail and be disappointed; then they need to be shown how to come out on the otherside stronger.

    Like I said, this recess thing is just one sypmtom of an ever growing problem with kids and parents.
    Brina recently posted..The Waiting Room

  4. I agree with the majority of your article, but must take issue with one particular quote. You said. “Bodies were made to be bruised. Hearts were made to be broken.” God did not make us with the intention of being hurt and broken, but He did make us with the durability to withstand the hurt.
    CM Logan recently posted..The Video About The ABC’s Of Freezer Cooking

  5. As the husband of a teacher and father of 3 kids I’m really tempted to just send them running outside w/ chainsaws and rust shovels.

    With the amount of safety nazis and helicopter parents our kids (at large) will not survive anything let alone a zombie apocalypse or alien invasion.
    ThatGuyKC recently posted..4×4: Solitude, Fame, Habits, Tribes

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