Monday, March 24, 2008

LCW: close to home

Let me add this. I think there are a lot of parenting/childhood and culture/social issues raised in this book. Research is research, you can make it say what you want. My husband thinks the author is probably over-reacting. Maybe he is but I don't think so.

When I'm reading a book I like, My poor family has generally learned to tolerate my enthusiasm: "Want to hear this?" Car trip- rapt audience. Or not. But this time after she listened, my daughter told me about a friend student teaching in an eastern NYS urban elementary school. Her friend was amazed when she asked the kids how many had gone sledding. (It's sledding. I used to say sleigh-riding which meant something different to my parents and grandparents.) I can't remember if she said no one raised their hands, only a couple raised their hands, or that they didn't even know what it was. Out of a group of 20-30 kids in a classroom. You get the picture.

This friend was upset because, as she said, it's one of the most inexpensive of winter sports that parents can do with their children. She was upset because she felt like parents just didn't want to make the time. I thought maybe because it's an urban school. I thought, maybe they're too cold. (They had a winter coat drive for city school children in my city this year.) Maybe it's the 20 minute snowsuit ritual followed by, "I need to go to the bathroom." (x however many children you take.) Maybe it's the snowy puddles on the floor in the house or in the car. Maybe it's the fact that by the time parents pick up children and grown-up work is done for the day it's dark this time of year and weekends are full of chores. Maybe.... But this 23 year old teacher was really upset about this.

I will say that the parks in my city post signs that forbid sledding and list the parks where you can sled - a 20-30 minute drive away. You'd have to have a car, money to buy gas, a half a day to kill, and parental supervision. Or you'd have to drag kids and sleds on a city bus that would only run a couple times a day. That's cold! One park I know that posts signs has the best kid sledding hills ever- small, medium, and large slopes. Wide slopes so lots of people can sled without running into each other - if they're careful. In the early days of urban planning (our parks were planned by one of the best) they probably planned these parks for sledding.

Ok, there's the liability issue.

"Dead Man's Slope." That's the name of the hill closest to the rec center and I will bear testimony that it's a slope any adventurous kid would die for. It isn't a slope for the small or inexperienced but you don't have to go all the way up the hill. Yes, I got hurt but I shouldn't have been carrying my ice skates on a metal saucer that I couldn't control after the age of 42 and underexercised. And I didn't know there was a ramp-like bump hidden under the snow. The kids knew. And we had to walk home. It's not that far.

See, you don't have to read the book. That's why I don't think it's propaganda.

Spring is coming. Think about the "wild" outdoor places your parents and grandparents talked about. Think about the memorable places where you played as a kid. (Did you even play outside unsupervised?) Keep your eyes open. Are people still sharing those places with their children and grandchildren? Are kids still playing and exploring outside spaces in their free time? time...yup, that's in the book too.

He talks about fears that keep us inside, too, and shares a great deal of wisdom.

The thought of kids spending time outside alone being a thing of the past hits me hard because it was so important to me as a child. God was there, too, and I learned to be careful. The thought of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren being born into a social culture where they may never have that opportunity just grieves me.

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