Even bubble wrap can’t prevent the Thwack! of childhood

Guest Editorial by Christopher Foulds - Even bubble wrap can’t prevent the Thwack! of childhood

His name was Steve and he lived exactly two blocks from me.

On that fateful day, Steve was on the tire swing, commanding the rest of us Grade 4 kids to swing him harder and higher and faster and — thwack!

That’s when Steve, gripping the chains and leaning back as far as possible to maximize speed, was introduced to the wooden pole holding up his mode of transport.

Thwack! was the sound of Steve’s skull speeding into the wooden pole.

The sickening Thwack! was followed by the almost gushy sound of Steve’s body crumpling down, across the rubber tire as it swung deliriously and onto the trampled earth.

He was out cold for a while and we nine-year-olds had no idea what to do.

We stared and looked at each other and stared some more.

There was some blood among his matted dirty-blond hair.

Finally, Steve arose awkwardly, looking groggy as hell as he started telling his mom that, yes, he will mow the lawn as soon as he finishes breakfast.

He stood, walked in circles and reiterated his pledge to mow the lawn.

That was our introduction to concussions.

Steve was tended to by teachers, taken to the hospital and was back in class a few days later, seemingly no worse for wear.

In the meantime, the tire swing didn’t sit idly by.

It remained among the more popular playground attractions, carrying many a child exhorting his classmates to swing him harder and higher and faster.

There may have even been a few more Thwacks! as well, though what is certain is an accidental concussion from horseplay did not compel the powers-that-be to ban the swinging-tire ride.

I like to think it was a 1970s line of thinking that accepted that kids and concussions and sprains and broken bones and skinned knees were matches made in nature.

Not so in Nashua, Conn., or Port Washington, N.Y., or Zeeland, Mich., or Toronto — or any of the myriad other cities and towns across the globe that have seen school officials slowly but surely ban sport after sport and game after game, all in the name of protecting kids from themselves.

It seems as though a week cannot pass by without more news or the weird, of this school or that school banning this activity or that sport.

It seems that if a kid is looked at the wrong way during an activity, that activity will become the latest dodo bird of kids’ sports.

Administrators at Weber Middle School in Port Washington, a town in Long Island in New York, have banned tag, baseballs, footballs, soccer balls and lacrosse balls (presumably, the kids can play baseball, football, soccer and lacrosse if they employ the Marcel Marceau method of competition).

If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, cartwheels have also been banned as a recess activity — unless those cartwheels are supervised.

Up in Nashua, N.H., the principal at Charlotte Avenue elementary has banned tag because the venerable game can involve aggressive pushing.

Not surprisingly, more than one parent has complained about these bans.

It’s been said our kids live in a bubble-wrap world, one in which they are sent outside wearing armour fit for a knight, one in which they mark “play-dates” in their calendar, rather than run down the street and knock on a buddy’s door.

It’s all well and good to wish for your child to glide through those early years with nary a scratch — but it’s wishful thinking.

Childhood equals all sorts of pain and to break a bone or bust a nose and take a puck to the teeth are rites of passages that can never be erased — even if the next school bans walking due to a chance of tripping.

Let’s recycle that bubble wrap and let our kids breathe — yes, even if there is a chance they get the hiccups.

Christopher Foulds is editor of Kamloops This Week.