Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Vintage Life

 Ah...the vintage life of a child.  Unorganized baseball games, football, stick ball, climbing trees, building forts, exploring unknown territories (without a cellphone), riding bikes with carefree abandon, ice skating and finally...
the thrill of SLEDDING! (cue the ominous music)

I grew up in the NYC suburbs of the Northeast.  Come the first snow fall, we knew all the great hills and found some new ones.  Were we supervised, yes at a very young age but as we approached the 10 year old mark, not so much.  We were explorers and learned about the consequences of our actions the good, old fashioned way...we actually had consequences to our actions!  We were not bubble wrapped into a safety net.  I remember my dad telling me not to climb the trees across the street, because most of them were dead and one of the branches could break.  Naturally, I didn't listen and headed across the street for tree climbing.  While swinging from a low but large branch, it came down on tooth and quite a few stitches later, I learned not to climb on dead trees.  "Don't swing on that tree rope at the quarry, it's too high"... what he didn't know was that right beneath the water under the rope was an old telephone pole that had fallen in the quarry.  On that telephone pole was a nail, that met perfectly with the palm of my hand when I landed...more stitches and a nagging feeling that I should start listening to my dad.
My point is, that we were put in situations that forced us to deal with problems, help our friends, find help (without the benefit of a cellphone) and suffer consequences that we would remember.  
I'm in no way saying that any kid should try any one of these things but a recent Montville, NJ ban on sledding has me wondering, have we gone too far?

The ban is due to a lawsuit against the town that stems from an incident a few years ago.  A young girl was hurt (leg injury) after colliding with a frozen hay bale, set in place as a boundary marker.  Montville says that they are not enforcing the ban (i.e. ticketing or fining) as of yet but the problem lies in the (for lack of a better word:)) snowball effect that this decision has caused.  Many other towns (outside NJ) are banning or considering a ban on, sledding.

I am well aware of the dangers of concussions and traumatic brain injury.  My son, now grown, played high school football (defense) and I spent many a Friday night, in the stands, holding my breath.  When the time came to play college football, we decided against it.  As a younger child, he skateboarded, snowboarded, etc..  Prior to trying anything new and until he got the hang of it, I would prepare him with things like, try to avoid other people, stay in the middle of slope so you don't go into the trees, if you feel like you're going too fast, slow yourself down or take the "sit down" fall if possible and always be aware of what is going on around you (no headphones...another problem with today's adventurous youth).  After that, I would stay off to the side and watch.

Of course, when I was a kid, the word "sue" was not common and even if it were, my dad would not have set the example that it was the right thing to do.  Again, not to say that sometimes it isn't warranted but let's be we really want to teach our kids that it's somebody else's fault, all the time.  

Thanks for reading!