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Thursday, October 19, 2006
First Kickball... Now This...

... you know, I've heard of some pretty stupid things being done, but this is one of the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

We've become a society that's gotten so overprotective of our kids, and worried about every little potential lawsuit that's come about that we're starting to regulate what kids do on the playground. I meant to discuss this once before, but never got around to it and eventually forgot about it until Kari brought a link to my attention yesterday. The link was to a story about a Massachusetts school that has banned the game of tag.

That's right, tag. We've already had dodgeball banned in schools (I could *swear* I've blogged about that, but I guess not) because it allows kids to pick on others by throwing a ball at them knowing that they might not be able to dodge it in time. Now we're banning tag.

It's being banned because of two reasons - one is potential injury to the children. The other is liability for the school. See? We've gotten so damn sue-happy in this country that schools are afraid to let children run around and tag each other. Apparently, and I'm sure many of you probably didn't know this, but kids can get *HURT* while playing tag. They fall down and skin their knees and palms and some kids shed a few tears when they do, but the school doesn't want that to happen in case they're held liable for not protecting someone's little angel.

Excuse me? Skinned knees and palms are supposed to be part of the landscape with elementary school kids. Just like bruises from dodgeball are earned as badges of honor... or disgrace. But some parents want the contact sports removed from school recess and PE classes because they don't want their children to get injured and they're willing to blame someone else if their kid isn't fast enough to dodge the ball, or trips over their own feet when they're running away to avoid being tagged.

In the article one parent mentioned that she's witnessed some near-collisions on the playground and that her son feels safer now. Her son must be a wimp if he's really saying that he feels safer now that tag has been banned, or she's lying. I'm betting on the latter. Collisions on the playground happen. Next thing you know they're not going to ban a contact sport that encourages cardio activity and imagination and agility. They'll probably ban kids from being able to use the monkey bars because you can get calluses and blisters on your hands.

You can, you know. Both A & B got awful blisters and calluses on their hands from hanging on sun heated monkey bars. And it was nasty when A's split open - she was in such pain. And I cleaned her up and gave her a couple of hints about not playing until her hands healed, and she went up there again anyway. What am I supposed to do about that? Sue the private school because they allowed my child to continue to play on the monkey bars and hurt herself to the point where it was hard to hold a pencil or crayon to do her school work?

Tempting... I could get back all those years of tuition in return for all the years that they patted me on the head in the office and sent me on my way. Very tempting. I know the parent whose child fell and broke her arm after hanging from the monkey bars didn't sue. She didn't even think about it, but she could probably still make a case for it. I'm not going to sue over burst blisters because it's just plain stupid. As is this rule about tag. B still plays tag on the playground, running around like a crazy person and she's fallen down a couple of times. And she plays other running games that kids her age think up. They jump ropes too. That's probably going to be a target soon - after all, kids can get their feet tangled up in the ropes, trip and do a face plant into the blacktop. Bloody noses and scraped cheeks all around if they can't get their hands down quickly enough to break their fall.

Some schools have modified the rules of dodgeball to include softer balls and ways to get back into the game, so it's not completely gone from the landscape. I suspect that many schools may go the route of playing FreezeTag so that the kids don't have to run around so much. We, as a country, complain about our children being too sedentary and the obesity rates in children are through the roof. Has anyone ever thought about the fact that maybe it's taking away things like tag and dodgeball are contributing to the rise in obesity rates? You can do only so much with a balanced diet - exercise is important to growing little kids.

Thank goodness my kids schools haven't gotten that anal about playground games, although I'll suspect that some paranoid parent will be in the school office today (if they weren't there yesterday) and begging them to ban tag so their precious little angel won't get traumatized for life by the skinned knee that they'll get when they bump into someone else running at full speed. I know our jobs as parents is to protect our children from the dangers of the world, but since when is tag dangerous? Unless you're playing it in a minefield, near a busy intersection, or near the edge of a cliff I don't see a lot of harm that could be done as a result of the game.

This whole thing is stupid - we're over protecting our kids to the point where eventually they're going to end up sitting on the ground staring at each other during recess. I'm not saying that those of you with problems over dodgeball or tag (being picked on, pushed or some other trauma or just general dislike of the game) don't have legitimate issues. I hated dodgeball too, but it's what we played as kids (whether we wanted to or not) and we survived it, bruises and all. And we survived tag, and RedRover, and jumping rope, climbing trees and stickball in the street. And many of us remember those childhoods fondly.

PLaying tag is fresh air, sunshine, exercise. Just like every other game that's out there. I really fear that we're heading for a world where contact sports on the playground are going to be banned. Even on the middle and high school grounds where a pickup game of basketball could just break out, or touch football is banned because parents don't like people touching each other. I'm afraid of them going after the non-contact sports next. Tennis, because you can hurt your elbow. Volleyball, because you could knock your teeth out when you dive for the ball on the slippery gym floor. And don't forget baseball....

... because those bats are a powerful weapon or someone could accidentally get hit with a ball.