Friday, November 19, 2010

Let the Children Play

This morning I ran past an elementary school playground. Little bodies scurried up the ladder of a slide. No one yelled, "One at a time!" I expected them to hurry back to climb the ladder again, but as soon as they slid off the metal they raced to the nearest swingset. Memory tugged. I found myself on the playground of Bluffton Elementary, about 50 years ago. Rushing to the swing instead of the ladder felt exactly right.

We gathered in a circle to choose teams for kickball. I forget how we designated team captains. Maybe we remembered whose turn or birthday it was. Some of us knew we'd be picked first and who would be last. Selection happened fast because we wanted to play. The next day, if Jimmy remembered his bag, we might shoot marbles.

"Where are the teachers?" I wondered this morning. They were where they should be, gathered under a tree, visiting. The children, like 50 years ago, didn't need someone telling them what to do or worrying about being a few feet away in case they fell off the ladder or bumped heads running to the next attraction.

I hope this playground is not unusual, with its old-fashioned equipment and laissez faire attitude. It reminds me of our 2000 trip to New Zealand, when we showed up to sea-kayak Milford Sound. I asked, "do you want us to sign a waiver?" Our guide laughed, "no need, you'd be thrown out of court if you sued us." We need that -- a culture of knowing risk-taking, of taking responsibility for our choices. If you drink coffee, you know it's hot, so don't spill it.

"Too many rules spoil the broth," says Virginia.


  1. mary pannabecker steinerNovember 20, 2010 at 12:42 PM

    Our playground is pretty much as you remember it, except there are some new climbing things. But the old swingset is still there!

  2. Yeah-- just like I remember it. I was picked near or at the end for kickball. I LOVED playing marbles day after day. Did you see anyone playing marbles?