Let’s here it for the folks on the Windham, New Hampshire school board. They’ve finally taken the bold action that so many of us have been waiting for to help improve the quality of life and self-esteem of the K-12 students under their protective watch. Yes, these brave folks have placed the interests of the children first and outlawed that scourge of childhood self-esteem–dodge ball. And not just dodge ball, but all “human target” games. Watch out Tag, you’re next.
Naturally, this action was precipitated by a parental complaint that their child was being “bullied” by vicious youths armed with red rubber balls during gym class. Apparently, taking the time to teach little Johnny to become better at catching or dodging spherical projectiles could not be justified in light of the time sensitive nature associated with the prospective demise of his self-esteem—since, as everyone knows, it is a straight line from poor dodge ball performance to adult social maladjustment and no one wants another serial killer on our hands when it can be so easily averted—so, the school board did the only thing it could do and banned it for everyone. I’m sure we are all impressed with the equal standard in which the board’s decision was applied. Now little Johnny can look forward to being bullied by vicious youths without red rubber balls, armed with the knowledge that through the well-intentioned actions of his hyper-vigilant parents no one will ever have to participate in this dehumanizing activity ever again. I’m sure we can all imagine the pride that his parents must feel in demonstrating that there is nothing they won’t do for their son.
Personally I don’t think we can be too careful as parents. Our children are a precious resource, so don’t we need to make sure that their lives are as safe and risk free as we can possibly make them? For example, the National Health and Research Council of Australia recently concluded that kids should not blow out the candles on shared birthday cakes. Too many germs they say. I immediately ran out and purchased those paper surgical masks for all the kids at my daughter’s birthday party—we put them in the party favors bags—and when it came time for my daughter to blow out the candles she and her little friends were able to huff and puff with carefree abandon. While the masks did make their efforts to blow out the candles an exercise in futility—although it was fun to watch—no one left the party with a contagious disease, and I think that we can all agree that was the important thing.
My parents seemed to be a little confused by the interjection of these safety measures into a children’s party but their generation just wasn’t as concerned about the ramifications of their children’s activities as we are today. After all, these were the same people who let me ride a bike without a helmet. Sure I probably would have had the snot beat out of me on the playground by children of less concerned parents but you can never be too cautious. And after all, don’t we all want our kids to know that there in no problem in their lives that mommy and daddy can’t fix for them?
Of course, this whole helmet issue really does date me, since what loving parent would let their child risk life and limb on a Schwinn anyway? Honestly, if kids want to go someplace shouldn’t we all leap to get our keys and chauffer them to their desired destination in the family SUV? Unfortunately, my parents didn’t feel that this was part of their job description. For example, if I wanted to go somewhere and it was raining my mom didn’t immediately head for the family car, she told me to wear a raincoat.
Sometimes I wonder how I even survived my childhood both physically and emotionally. Hasn’t overcoming our own parent’s shortcomings proven to be the guiding principle in so many of our beliefs about child rearing. Letting us play in the street, much worse allowing us to playing outside, period. I shudder now when I think what could have happened. Isn’t it so much better to keep them inside watching TV or playing on the computer where we can keep an eye on them? I don’t know about you, but my parents made me do chores, and when I got old enough, get a job. Yours probably did too. Thank god we’ve given up on those old antiquated ideas of personal responsibility and industry. I even had to buy my own car and pay for my gas and insurance for crying out loud. I think we can all agree that we don’t want our own children to live through that kind of hell. Isn’t it just our job to leave them unencumbered by musty old conventions like making their own beds, so they can fully explore life through the activities that we pay for? I ask you, what kind of Neanderthal makes his kid mow the lawn?
So to the good parents of Windham, I salute you. Why should your child be exposed to things like: life is sometimes unfair, that everything isn’t all about you, people can be mean, and that you’re responsible for dealing with the events in your life? That’s what adulthood is for. Doesn’t dodge ball just represent all the unhappy things that we’ve had to deal with in our own lives, that we wished our parents would have protected us from? Of course it does, and I think it’s enlightened parenting by folks like the fine residents of Windham that provides us with a clear glimpse of the future in store for all of us. And to those less progressive minded residents of Windham who have asked that the city’s name be changed to “Sissyville”, I say, “shame on you”.