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?