My friend Tom (aka, “The Blogfodder”) sent me a link this morning: “Classic kids games like kickball deemed unsafe.” In a nutshell: The New York Health Department has rescinded its list of “dangerous” games that would have been prohibited at summer camps. Among the potential child-killer/maimers: Red Rover, dodgeball, tag, and kickball.
“And what’s your opinion on kickball, anyway?” I wrote to Tom. “Too dangerous, or a childhood classic? I have fond memories of breaking both arms and a leg while playing ‘Red Rover.’ “
Tom’s reply was a classic.
My opinion? Kickball etc are time-honored, inexpensive, and efficient cultural means of preparing children for the real real world, in that they accurately reflect in physical terms the emotional and psychological meanness, predation, and cunning that make up adult life. … It thins the psychic herd, builds character, forces tender young humans to face their limitations and often, in the process, discover their strengths.
(By the way, the recess game of choice at Our Lady of Grace elementary school … was something we called “corkoleerio,” which no one in this part of the country has ever heard of, it seems. It involved two gangs of boys in chase-and-batter strategies on the blacktop parking lot. It was said to be Irish in origin, but I suspect it may have been brought to Ireland by the Scots.)”
Because Tom’s ancestry is Irish and mine Scottish, I won’t comment on what my people may or may not have brought to his country. (I’d say “civilization,” but I’ll leave it at the bagpipe. Which is a fine, fine instrument, by the way. But that’s a different blog post.)
Anyway … in his inimitably wise and funny way, Tom has once again gotten to the heart of the matter: Playing helps youngsters learn valuable skills that will serve them later in life. That’s why kittens pounce on each other, and why puppies play tug-of-war.
Trying to shelter kids from every imaginable danger is a waste of time, because there’s no way to make the world completely safe. But more importantly, it’s a disservice to the kids. Kids need to take risks and make mistakes and occasionally fall down—because only by actually falling down can you learn how to get back up.