An elementary school in Nashua, New Hampshire, has now banned playing tag during recess.
It won’t be long before playing dodge ball will be a federal offense.
I’m positive we aren’t headed in the right direction. I’m just not sure when we made the turn.
When I was in elementary school there was a deep, open ditch that ran the length of our playground. We routinely jumped this ditch. When rains were heavy, we floated broken pieces of sticks down it and ran along beside to see whose stick – “kayak” – would win the race. At the north end of the playground, the ditch ran into a huge culvert which went under the cafeteria driveway and then under the old high school football field. At the opposite end of the campus was a grate which drained into the culvert. The greatest challenge of grade school manhood was to enter the culvert at the elementary school and make your way all the way to the far northern grate where your buddies awaited to validate your rite of passage.
I went in on more than a few occasions, usually with my friend Don Spivey, and secured my status as an actual male.
On our playground, there were metal monkey bars, steel slides and a merry-go-round that could break a kid’s arm or leg like snapping a twig. And we had a ball playing on all of it. Admittedly, we also had several kids break their arms and legs.
There were metal chain swings – industrial grade – from which kids would jump once they got the thing going, somewhere above the 8’-mark. I well remember that sinking feeling in my stomach when I would get so high that the chain would go slack. Then the whole apparatus would just drop, and you’d scramble to grab onto chain, seat, anything available, before the swing violently snapped taut at the bottom of the arc. This unseated many a pre-teen daredevil. But sometimes it didn’t, and you shouted to your friends on your uncanny ability to avert disaster.
Being a kid, when I was a kid, was not like being confined to a padded room in an asylum. Kids lived a little.
I have jumped off the roof of my grandparents’ house to the ground. I have stacked up boards on concrete blocks and have ridden my bike over these home-made ramps at a high rate of speed. I have wandered alone deep into remote woods, crossing creeks and encountering the occasional snake or stray dog. I have ridden on the tailgate of a truck from the country to town, and I even let my toe drag on the ground while we were moving when I got a wild hair.
I’ve ridden to Panama City, Florida, from Baldwyn, Mississippi, while lying in the space between the back seat and the back window of my grandmother’s old sedan.
How is it that I could possibly still be alive?
We’ve gone too far today. Maybe we shouldn’t go back to kids dragging their feet from the tailgates of moving trucks, but we sure as heck need to let the kids play tag on the playground.
How will they ever know that there are consequences to actions if they never get to act?