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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.


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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What's (not) Wrong with this Picture



Do you remember the days before all playground equipment was covered in foam rubber, and children did not dress like miniature adults?
It wasn't so long ago that the world didn't seem like such a scary place.

In those days a heavy steel plate with bars which could accommodate a small horde of squealing children (and still more pushing the contraption around and around) was considered good safe fun. Today it would be called a screaming metal death-trap.

Little girls were allowed to wear pants or jeans (or slacks and dungarees as they were called in my house) which allowed them to hang upside-down freely from the monkey bars without showing the world their underpants. They didn't have to worry about tripping on their hems or ripping their tights or figuring out how to keep their dresses down while riding a bike. They also didn't fear being labeled or considered unfit for shiduchim.

Where I grew up kids played outside unsupervised until suppertime. My children have too much homework to get through to spend hours running around outdoors, even if it were considered safe enough to allow them to roam the block alone.

Has the world changed that much in 25 years or have we just become more fearful?

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23 Comments:

At 7:22 PM, Blogger projgen said...

I remember thinking this when lawn darts were made illegal. Lawn darts are huge and heavy, and you have to really whip 'em at someone to cause any serious damage (unless you poke an eye out, of course). It made me wonder, who is responsible for us being responsible? Getting hurt playing is how you learn how far you can go (take that as I mean it, please, people - I'm not referring to actual unsafe equipment, or kids playing inappropriately).

Accidents happen. I fell out of trees, fell off swings, and quite a few times, had my rear end bounced off the very whatchamacallit in the picture here. It makes me sad that kids don't have the time or freedom to play anymore, and on the rare occasions they can sneak some time, society is too paranoid to let them go all out kid.

Our neighbourhood has tons of kids. The only time I've ever seen any kids at the playground is when I've taken my neighbour's kids. The ridiculously tame plastic horse on the giant, stiff spring that's 1 foot off the ground is a big hit.

(sorry for the long comment, you hit a trigger point for me, Shifra!)

 
At 7:29 PM, Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der ┼íteg) said...

i remember when i was little and used to all kinds of crazy tricks, climbing up cliffs and monkeybars and crazy acrobatics. now that i'm older i'm completely scared of trying anything remotely resembling the kind of antics i used to be famous for. it's sad.

 
At 7:40 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

Remember seatbelts back in the 70s? Well I don't. I don't remeber ever having to wear a seatbelt; not even in the front seat. Now I won't put take my car out of park untill all the kids are buckled in.

I also remember being one of fourteen kids smashed into the backseat or the front seat of the car on the way home from school in carpool. That wouldn't fly these days.

I also used to ride my bike around and around and around the block for hours. We would disappear all afternoon and come back eventually. My mother never called the cops.

Oy!

How old do you have to be before you're allowed to start talking like Arnold Fine?

 
At 7:43 PM, Blogger RaggedyMom said...

RaggedyDad would say that the problem is that America is "Land of the Lawsuits." When I was in second grade, I broke my arm at school by falling off the monkey bars and landing on it. Mid-fall I remembered that my father had broken his back as a baby, and thought it would be prudent to shield my back with my arm.

Nowadays, instead of thinking "Ouch!" kids think "My parents are going to sue the school and get rich!" almost instinctively.

Having moved to America from Israel at age 5, there was definitely a sharp drop in my older brothers' and my outdoor activity. As we steadily became paler, we also lost something more. Unfortunately, the world is just too scary for (young) kids to be outdoors unsupervised.

 
At 7:50 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

The PT is the only girl in K-5 who wears pants. By 1st grade she will be in dresses/skirts full time. Mrs. B thinks it's stupid to put a dress on a kid who's just going to be running around and rolling on the floor.

But that's just us.

BTW I am so glad to see you in plaid.

 
At 8:09 PM, Blogger RaggedyMom said...

PT, I don't remember "running around and rolling on the floor" from the PT's report card! :)

As I'm getting geared up to shop ahead for Ann's clothes for school next year, I'm hearing moms telling me not to buy too many pairs of pants, since some girls don't wear them anymore (in the 4-year-old class!) and it gets so that even the little girls who still wear pants put up a fuss about not wanting to wear pants to school.

Now while we generally don't advocate letting the four-year-old call the shots in this household, I also don't want Ann to feel ostracized.

I think it's kind of silly at this age, since the girls are so little, and it gets kind of drafty in skirts. And after that, it's a long future of pleated uniform ahead. Maybe it just seems that way to me since I wore pants into college.

We'll see what transpires next year.

 
At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried descibing to my daughter the fun I used to have on these and then realized, with a pang, she will never get to experience the same feeling.

I would lie down in the middle, looking up at the clouds, and watch them go around and around until I puked.

But I did do it in a skirt - from the ripe young age of four.

 
At 5:42 AM, Blogger rockofgalilee said...

In Israel we look with horror at the people who don't strap their kids in or put 14 kids in a 5 person car (common occurrences).
The kids here have more freedom and actually play in the park on all those "unsafe" rides.

 
At 8:22 AM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Israel is sort of like the US in the 1970s...kids still ride bikes without helmets, there are wild tiyulim, and kids do all sorts of stuff here that would give a (modern) adult in the US a heart-attack.

Though plaid pants are still definitely "out".

(I had a plaid suit in the 1970s...)

 
At 2:04 PM, Blogger littlejerseygirl said...

My 6 year old daughter is a self-proclaimed monkey - in pants. It bothers her when she hangs upside down from the monkey bars by one leg (I try not to look) and everyone can see her underwear. I try to get her to wear skirts pretty often because eventually that is all I will let her wear, but for now - especially in the cold winter, I don't have a problem with the pants. She compains that tights itch her. Next year in school though, she won't be allowed to wear pants.
She did come home one day really upset because her teacher did not let her stand on top of the monkey bars (about 10 ft. high) and she felt she was doing just fine.
Anyways, For now she has no fear of anything. She would go on upside down roller coasters if she was tall enough. I'm trying very hard to let her retain that.

 
At 5:25 PM, Blogger MDmom said...

the rule in our israeli household is "make sure you come home when the streetlights come on." of course, my 10-year-old has a cellphone but that's because he's so independant i need to keep track of all his comings and goings. but when we went back to visit my parents in n.y. "anxiety-mom" kicked in and i wouldn't even let my kids play alone in the front yard. the rule changed to "if i can't see you at all times, you can't do it."

 
At 1:17 PM, Anonymous Big Fan said...

I also remember playing outside for hours until it got dark. My kids have no time to play in the house, let alone outside, with all the HW, etc.

I think part of it is that statistically the chances of being abducted, hit by a car, etc. are the same as it was 20 years ago, except now we have cable and internet news to report each incident.

We also will not move the car without strapping the kids in cars seats. My grandmother saw my kid scrunched into a rear facing car seat and accused me of torturing the kid.

 
At 1:49 PM, Blogger yingerman said...

Ya know something, the world is different today that the simple days when we grew up.
In our day it was OK to discuss baseball players in yeshiva, mostly cause the players themselves were on the average regular family guy with an inflated ego.
Todays players are more often than not scum who make the papers due to all sorts of nasty actions on their part.
Todays kid aren't encouraged to worship such, and I'd havta agree.
The world at large is very similar to the baseball player scenario, everything has moved away from the ideal-er conditions that we knew as a kid.
this includes printed material and general (think brady bunch where the parents fixed any issue in 30 minutes, to todays popluar shows where violence and cussing is promoted)
And Raggedymom is right, if one can sue over schlemazel like spilling your own hot coffee, instead of feeling silly, then the world has changed.

 
At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Cheryl said...

Jerseygirl, your six year old should meet my four year old. My four year old wants to wear pants everyday. As soon as she comes home from shul on Shabbos, she tears off her dress and puts on jeans. She is a monkey who thinks the world is her jungle gym. I don't know what I'm going to do when she hits first grade and has to wear a uniform.

 
At 7:07 PM, Blogger RaggedyMom said...

Cheryl, your comment about your daughter made me think of my three-and-a-half year old - As soon as we get home from anywhere involving a dress, she says she needs to go put on "soft clothes" (though her dresses are pretty no-fuss and soft) and finds a pair of pull-on pants and a casual shirt.

 
At 9:50 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Wow, those where the days. Merry-go-rounds, tire swings, "cherry drops" off the high bars, seeing who could jump the furtherst off the swing, see-saws that actually when up and down and jolted you. Summers were spent riding bikes or skating around the neighborhood, just checking in for food and drink.

Shifra-I could have wrote this because I am always lamenting the fact that our kids just won't have the freedom they need to be kids. I'm hoping to find a home with a nice enough backyard that the kids can just go play by themselves (in pants) and be kids.

 
At 12:38 AM, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I remember walking to my girlfriend's house four blocks away unaccompanied. I remember riding my bicycle unaccompanied, in the street, to the nearest playground six blocks away--where we often played unaccompanied, as well! I remember staying out until dark to play, and our parents having absolutely no idea where we were.

Yes, this does have something to do with my having grown up in the suburbs--you just *don't* let a kid ride a bike in the street in New York City. Still, it was so sad that my son couldn't go *anywhere* without me or my husband accompanying him until he was about 11 years old, not even to the playground down the block. Maybe we're deluded when we think that we, ourselves, were safer as children (less prone to kidnapping, for instance) than our own children are. But it was an awfully liberating delusion. By comparison, our kids are practically prisoners.

As for the homework situation, I once weighed my son's bookbag to see whether it really had as much in it as I thought it had, and was appalled to learn that it weighed a third of our son's own body weight. If memory serves me correctly, I was three or four years older than he was, if not more, before I started having to carry that many books.

In short, our kids probably get less excercise than we got, they're afforded much less independence, and they're weighed down like pack mules.

They also start their academic studies at a younger age. Does anyone else remember when kindergarten was a place for fingerpainting and playing with clay? I've heard it suggested that one reason why so many children are labeled learning disabled is that children are now expected to learn to read at a younger age. When I was in elementary school, we barely knew the alphabet by the end of kindergarten. Nowadays, a child is expected to know how to read by December of his/her first-grade year. And how many times have I heard parents complain that they have to spend hours helping their kids with their homework because their kids are learning at eleven what they, themselves, didn't learn until thirteen or later, and the kids are just not ready for it yet?

Whatever happened to childhood?

 
At 8:49 AM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

Just to inject a whiff of reality, I remember walking around in Brooklyn and being confronted by a gang of Irish and Italian kids who probably would have beaten the living sh#t out of me if someone who knew me hadn't come along.

I also remember when NYC was a cesspool of filth, graffiti, violent crime, and smut. THe streets were usafe, car after car after car has 'No Radio' signs,the club gathering dust in my garage was heavily used in my first few cars, my bike was stolen right out of my garage, we lived in terror of nuclear war with Russia, and feared impending oil embargos. And to top it off in one word: DISCO.

That 70s (and 80s) Show wasn't as fun as we may recall.

 
At 10:31 AM, Blogger Jack's Back said...

Some things have definitely changed, but some aren't that different just our attitudes.

 
At 3:21 PM, Blogger Tzipporah said...

It's not just attitudes that have changed, though. We're now living in my husband's childhood home, and the neighborhood SEEMS the same (same houses, same parks, mostly same old park equipment), but if by chance I'm home in the middle of the afternoon, it's a ghost town.

Kids aren't out playing because moms aren't staying home. When he was a kid, he'd get on his bike and go anywhere he wanted and when he had an accident/got into trouble/needed a snack there was ALWAYS someone home who knew him and was able to take care of it, or call his mom to give him what-for.

When my little guy goes out (not for years yet, he's only 5 months old now) he could snort coke in the middle of the street and nobody would see or know anything about it. And if they did see, they'd look the other way, because it's "not their problem." THAT'S a big difference.

 
At 12:05 AM, Blogger Miriam L said...

Actually, I always thought that thing *was* a screaming metal death trap. I remember it being taken over by "big boys" who tried to get it unbalanced by all standing on one side (and succeeding).

I had those same plaid pants. I used to wear them with a striped sweater my Bube knit. :-D

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger Halfnutcase said...

But isn't it's being a screaming metal death trap why it was so fun? I was scared to do practicaly anything and I played on it! (and mind you I'm only 22).

Kids used to go outside and run around like idiots all day, and I can't help but think that what tzipporah said has a large bit to do with it.

Maybe if the mothers (or fathers!) where home to watch after them they might have an easier time.

 
At 3:29 AM, Blogger Hila said...

oh to be a kid again...what is our world coming to?

 

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