One rule I am oppressed by involves the safety of playgrounds. When last I checked, any playground toy over 27 inches tall needed a soft bed of woodchips at least six inches deep beneath it. Furthermore, when the inspector came by he or she would check to make sure the woodchips were recently fluffed up. If the kids had trampled them down, and they were too packed, you might get “written up.”
“Failure to properly fluff woodchips” might then be on your permanent record.
After you died, and were standing at the Pearly Gates, Saint Peter and all the angels would look at you in horror, and cry out, “You can’t come in here! You failed to fluff the woodchips!”
I did not want to take any chances of that, so I simply made sure all our toys were less than 27 inches tall. Then I did not have to bother with any woodchips whatsoever.
I still need to watch the kids like a hawk, or else they will stack all the 26-inch tall toys into a teetering structure six feet (72 inches) tall, and they will likely do it just as the inspector arrives.
The fact of the matter is that children, even very young children, like challenges. When they fall down they like to have someone to run wailing to, but it amazes me how the moment they are consoled they turn right around and run back to whatever it was they fell down doing.
Often a child will run wailing like a fire engine across an entire pasture to their mother, get the “boo-boo” kissed, and immediately be cured. (Mothers make hospitals look pathetic.) The wailing stops so swiftly you can’t help but suspect the kid was hamming it up a bit, however after you’ve seen this occur several thousand times you have to admit it serves some sort of natural, psychological function.
Therefore, when no one is watching, I myself will resort to kissing a “boo-boo” to “make it all better,” but please don’t tell anyone. First, it is well beneath my dignity, (which is well over 27 inches up, and requires yards of woodchips to prevent my being wounded when I fall.) Second, I hate to admit “kissing a boo-boo” works better than my wonderfully reasoned-out explanations. And lastly, it doesn’t make a cotton-picking bit of sense that it works.
However it also doesn’t make a cotton-picking bit of sense to attempt to prevent a child from getting boo-boos. There are some bureaucrats so full of themselves they practically want kids wrapped in a solid foot of bubble-wrap and placed in padded cells.
I’m quite certain these busybodies, with all their rules and regulations, deeply desire to outlaw snow. If they can’t outlaw it, then they’d like to regulate it. If they fail to control the weather with carbon taxes to prevent weather from disobeying the government, then they will likely forbid all playing in snow. After all, snow is dangerous stuff.
Right after our blizzard I was thinking the inspectors would likely like the snow. After all, it was deeper and softer than six inches of woodchips. However then I saw a thirty-six inch tall child walk into a thirty-six inch deep snowdrift. Soon the only visible sign of the child was an adorable woolen hat with a monkey-face on it, which moved slower and slower, until it stopped, and a little muffled voice cried out, “Help! Help! I’m stuck.”
After being rescued and reassured the little child headed straight into another snowdrift to repeat the process, and I couldn’t help but think to myself, “The inspector will not approve.”
As the weather warmed and the snow grew sticky the older children could not resist making snowballs and flinging them at each other. This was part of my own boyhood, and I know it always results in tears. It resulted in tears in 1958 and it results in tears in 2013, but now there is an entire politically correct elite who frown at all war-like acts and anything remotely resembling bullying, so I avoid a lot of trouble by forbidding snowballs.
Forbidding does no good. Something there is that does not love a wall, but loves a snowball. Deep down in the Neanderthal depths of our subconscious is an irresistible urge to make a round object of fluffy (or not so fluffy) snow, and to paste our fellow man right in the kisser with it.
I have done my best to stamp out this primitive instinct, and to raise a generation of Christian saints who always love their neighbors, and I’ve never received a lick of thanks for it. Instead I have received, on several occasions, a snowball right in the kisser, which on one occasion broke my glasses.
Rather than quelling the Neanderthal in the young, I discovered they had awoken the Neanderthal in me. I stooped and scooped and packed a snowball, and then noted my fierce face did not dismay the children. They were all running away and screaming, but they were screaming in glee.
I then decided we would attempt to have an organized snowball fight, with rules and with me as the umpire, and with a penalty box such as they have in ice-hockey games, for those who broke the rules. When just about every child was in the penalty box I came to the scientific conclusion that there is no such thing as an organized snowball fight. (Come to think of it, the same might be true for ice hockey.)
I also concluded it was a good thing the inspector didn’t drive in just then. I would have a hard time explaining to Saint Peter, at the Golden Gate, why it was down on my permanent record that I threw snowballs at children.
It seemed safer to distract the children from snowballs by taking them sledding, however immediately I was struck by how children seem to need challenges. Going down a shallow slope isn’t enough. They must always seek a steeper slope. A little bump is not enough. They must find a higher jump, a new and interesting way to crash, doing stunts in the process.
I have many times seen boys, (once in 2008 and then again in 2012 the boys happened to be brothers, on both occations aged five and three,) get going on a sled as fast as they could, and then roll over on purpose, and crash, and then, covered head to toe in snow, sit laughing and say, “That was awesome! Let’s do it again!”
This is not to say they don’t over-do it, and come to you weeping with a “boo-boo,” however as soon as they are comforted they rush back to get into a worse crash.
This makes it obvious they require oversight. Otherwise they crash into hard objects or, worse, each other. However, despite all caution and all oversight, children love speed and love crashing, and, when the snow develops a hard crust like sandpaper, an alarming percentage of the children in a country town have scabs on the tips of their noses.
What is it about the human spirit that so deeply desires a debacle? Is it because calamity teaches us? When I watch the local teenagers do death-defying tricks on their silly wheeled planks, (vaulting high into the air, snatching their skateboard from under their feet and pretending to play it like a harmonica while doing a slow and graceful 360 degree somersault, and then putting the board back under their feet and smoothly landing,) I wonder how many scraped knees and elbows and noses, and even broken bones, they had to endure to learn such tricks. And was it worth it?
I think it is worth it, though it likely cannot be justified. It cannot be justified because it cannot be explained. I know it cannot be explained because, as a writer, I am always looking for things to write about, and therefore often think, when in the midst of an experience, “This is so cool! I have to write about it!” Afterwards, when I sit down to write about it, I find it is next to impossible to describe.
You can attempt to describe sailing, but only a sailor will fully understand. You can attempt to describe skiing, but only a skier will fully understand. You can try to explain dancing, but only a dancer will fully understand. And you can try to explain the glee and joy and wholesome excitement children find in snow, but only those who once were children in snow will understand.
Others, who were never children in snow, become bureaucrats, regulators, inspectors, and schoolmarms, and seek to bubble wrap childhood. In the process they rob children of glee and joy, and can even do more harm than good.
Indeed a child is safer if he or she never rides a sled, but is such safety an improvement?