Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Imagination and play

Oh, for mercy's sake! People, just back off and let the kids play. ABC News has an article on new playground styles, some of which feature "play workers" to guide the children through them. Um, big swings and slides were nice when we went to town, but as a kid, I was much more likely to play by climbing trees (well now, we can't have that), running around with my siblings, the dogs, or other children, catching fireflies or balls, playing with my dolls - ranging from commercial dolls to yarn dolls that my granny taught me to make, and even to "dolls" made out of things like corn husks, daisies, or braided grass stalks. My brother and I regularly courted putting an eye out by "fencing" with marsh reeds from down by the stream. If you could break your opponent's reed or poke them in the belly with yours, you won.

I mean, I am not the world's biggest fan of dodgeball. It could be outlawed for schools tomorrow and I would not weep. I caught more "bean balls" than I care to think about. It's a wonder I didn't get multiple concussions from "playing" dodgeball. Ouch. Some concessions to safety don't bother me. Not letting bullies at school play "tag" with their picked-on classmates doesn't strike me as overly controlling. It strikes me as sensible, knowing exactly how much the bullies at my school were able to pull without one word of reprimand from the adults present, except perhaps for the victim, who wasn't allowed to quit a "game" used as an excuse for abusing them.

Nevertheless, aside from such flagrant abuses, I think children should be allowed to have their own play and their own imaginative view of the world, rather than being fed the pap of someone else's. Sometimes, rather than running about, I'd lie on my back in the grass, wondering what it would be like to be a cloud, or the wind pushing the cloud, or a bird, or a mountain. Or roll over on my belly - Imagine to myself that I am an ant, carrying away a leaf bigger than I am, or a spider, waiting on my delicately perfect web for a juicy fly. Maybe somehow while I've been lying here, some of *me* has rubbed off on the grass or the grass has become part of me. How will I ever manage to get up?

Or make up stories - "so the sky got bigger and bigger, and she realized she'd become an ant...", or retell ones I've read - "Once upon a time, there was a terrible witch, and she lived in a house that sat on a chicken's leg and could hop about by itself ..." or heard - "So, there was our great-great granddaddy, and he could see that the horses were nervous, when all of a sudden he heard..."

Or just make a great big mess in my already grass-stained shorts and t-shirt. And the main instruction that I got from adults was - You kids hose off the worst of it and come in for dinner.


Blogger Little Black Car said...

We played dodgeball with those red rubber gym balls that are blown up hard and sting when they hit you. Did that all the time. We also played "frogger" by running back and forth between the swings. It's a wonder nobody got a skull fracture.

My parents weren't neglectful but I always felt like we were left to take our lumps when we were kids. Playground monitors made sure nobody got killed but mostly they left us alone to run wild for half an hour. I sometimes get the feeling that parents today would wrap their kids in bubblewrap if they could.

1/21/2007 9:00 PM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Yeah, those are the balls we used, too. And my classmates aimed at my head. It's amazing how many times I just "tripped" when playing any game involving running. Whenever I hear someone talk about the social benefits of school, there's a part of me that wants to ask if they've actually ever *met* any schoolchildren. That socialization I could have done without.

And the adults were actually clueless enough to wonder why I *hated* anything involving running around. Until I figured out that if I didn't turn in my homework, the teacher would make me take recess in the library. Don't throw me in that briar patch, now. And I really liked the sister who ran the library. So a total win for me to not turn in my homework.

1/22/2007 5:58 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Mind you, I also don't think it's a great idea to control every blessed second of their day. I just hate listening to folks say in one breath that we need to get kids more interested in running around, and then complain when some effort is made to control the physical bullying on the playground. I'd probably have enjoyed sports a lot more if I hadn't been the target.

1/22/2007 6:03 AM  
Blogger Little Black Car said...

Our playgrounds always seemed so big--everyone had their own corner. The worst of the bullying didn't hit me until middle school.

I miss recess. Sometimes you just want to go run around like crazy for no reason.

1/22/2007 6:59 PM  

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