Protecting Children From Childhood

It's been said that youth is wasted on the young. Nowadays I'm not so sure. It seems youth is being wasted by adults who put safety and feelings over normal childhood activities.

According to an article in USA Today, educators are banning such games as soccer and touch football because they worry about "kids running into one another" and getting hurt. Tag, a playground favorite of mine, has been banned in some schools because it "progresses easily into slapping and hitting and pushing instead of just touching."

Imagine that. Kids running into each other while playing sports or letting playground games escalate into fights. One wonders how any of us made it to adulthood.

Somewhere along the line we've become overly concerned with children's safety. It's progressed beyond the point where we make sure children have a reasonably safe environment to play in, to banning sports to avoid potential injuries at all costs.

I remember my friends and I riding bikes up and down our street on hot summer days. No one wore a helmet. In fact if someone had worn one, I'm quite sure we would have teased them mercilessly. We wrecked our bikes countless times jumping off dirt hills. Somehow we survived.

My favorite playground equipment was the merry-go-round. I remember taking turns with my friends spinning it as fast as we could to see how long we could hold on before flying off or becoming too dizzy that we begged the person spinning it to stop. I also remember playing on seesaws, jungle gyms, and tall metal slides which, at the time, seemed to reach all the way to the sky. Now it's hard to find a park with any of those toys. They've all been replaced by safer but more boring equipment.

With life comes risks and sometimes children's injuries go beyond the bruised elbow or scraped knee. No one I grew up with was ever seriously hurt doing the normal things children do: playing tag, riding bikes, or riding seesaws. However, I'm sure there were children somewhere who were seriously injured or killed doing routine childhood activities. In life there are no guarantees of complete safety, no matter how young or old one is.

Perhaps these "educators" that frown on tag should think about the message they are sending children: avoid confrontation. Don't take chances because you might get hurt. Play it safe.

In part, thank the lawsuit happy society in which we live. Accidents are no longer accidents but always the fault of the company who made the equipment, the school, or parents. Someone must take the blame -- especially when there's easy money to be made.

It is naive to think we can prevent every childhood injury. In the process of trying we are sucking the fun out of being a kid. Maybe next time we start complaining about children sitting in front of the TV or playing video games for hours on end, we should ask ourselves what alternatives are we giving them? When they're being told that just about everything they want to do is unsafe, perhaps sitting and doing nothing is the safe alternative.

As I age, there are times I wish I could be young again. However, if that means growing up in a world where kids aren't allowed to play games such as tag or other normal childhood activites, I'll settle for being an adult.