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Volume 16, Issue 39 - September 25 - October 1, 2008

Grumps Takes Her Lumps

I want her enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks

The Antiseptic Baby and the Prophylactic Pup

Were playing in the garden when the Bunny gamboled up;

They looked upon the Creature with a loathing undisguised;

It wasn’t Disinfected and it wasn’t sterilized.

–Arthur Guiterman, 1871-1943: Strictly Germ-Proof

Today things are much different than when I was a boy during the Great Depression. Then, one learned life via trial ’n’ error: Make a mistake and a bandage and encouraging pat on the back handled the situation. (There weren’t many Band-Aids around in those penny-pinching days.)

So I got to thinking when I joined other members of the Riviera Beach Community Association in installing a piece of equipment in the community’s playground. Could the multi-purpose piece of equipment we were about to assemble prompt a child to fall?

Were a kid injured, could we or the association be legally liable?

The matter was dropped and we proceeded with screwdrivers and wrenches. I’ve since heard of no broken arms or legs; maybe a bruise now and then, but no lawsuits.

Since then, I’ve noted in the daily press and via personal observation increasing concern among parents that Junior or Siss could be at risk on playground equipment, even when playing a game as safe as tag, which some schools have banned due to parents’ concerns.

With dismay, I’ve noticed some parents have endorsed the elimination of recess as a safeguard against their child being injured while playing snap-the-whip during a 15-minute break. How overprotective can one get?

Long Live Recess

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I look at things more than a bit differently. In school, I was certainly no scholar. Lessons were a drag, but I could always look forward to two 15-minute recesses a day, one in mid morning and the other in early afternoon. They were a most welcome break and not just for me and other students. I’m sure teachers welcomed them, too.

Methinks recesses are as important as classroom endeavors in learning how to cope with life and people. In the classroom, the scholars — not dummies, as I was — get all the attention and time. The non-scholars sit back and fight drowsiness and boredom.

Toss in a few recesses, the drowsiness, lack of interest and solitary atmosphere disappears. Not infrequently, the class dunce gets the spotlight via athletic prowess, whether in baseball, fox and the geese or even tag. It’s a much needed and welcome uplift. Games are opportunity to learn how to play with a team, how to accept winning and defeat graciously, even how to deal with the class bully.

Also, look at the social side. Even girls and boys who have little interest in games get hands-on interaction with fellow pupils during recess. Learning how to interact socially with others is a lesson in life.

Recess is also time for exercise. What better way to combat obesity than via exercise? Overprotective and well-meaning parents do their children no favors by buying computer games that can be played with no physical risk — especially along with trips to fast-food joints for fat- and calorie-laden meal of burgers and a milkshake.

What can they be thinking?

Grumps Takes her Lumps

The other day, I attended a soccer game in Northern Anne Arundel County. I’m not much of a soccer fan, but six-year-old granddaughter Grumpy, aka Mackenzie Noell Boughey, was on the field in a mix of boys and girls, meaning parents and grandparents were expected to be cheerleaders. Soccer is a highly physical sport; I expected Grumps to take her lumps, which she did.

Several times she was bowled over in the thick of battle over the ball. But I wasn’t concerned. It’s part of the sport, and each time she popped up, brushed herself off and resumed the chase. She was learning that when knocked down, one bounds back after the brief indignity and fights on. It’s one of the greatest lessons in life; methinks as important as any she’ll learn in the first grade classroom at Gibson Island Country School.

After the game, we stopped at Brusters for a single dip of cotton candy explosion ice cream. She’d earned it; after four 10-minute quarters of vigorous kicking and running on a hot day, there was room in a balanced diet for all those extra calories and fat.

That’s another of the rewards of the active life.

Enough said.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.