Friday, September 26, 2008


So that Target trip sure was fun. We have acquired a new stripey sleeper! And some tiny Alice-sized jeans! And some long-sleeve onesies that I haven't previously been able to find in Alice's size! After Target, with some more time to kill, Alice and I moseyed down to Borders where we perused books and hung out in the cafe where I tried to feed her a bottle that she wasn't so excited about. During this time, the skies chose to open and nothing short of a DELUGE of water fell from the heavens. Oh my. The guy next to us was all, "Wow, is that HAIL?" And I was all, "Um, no, I don't think so. Just very big rain drops." And then the guy was all, "Yes it was! I saw the big chunks! You want to keep your daughter safe, don't you?" At which point Chip arrived to whisk us to the car. As we were standing at the door, I asked about the hail (what the HAIL? - ha ha) and Chip said it wasn't hailing anymore, and the rain wouldn't be a problem. We are Seattle-ites! We LIVE in the rain! Some moisture won't hurt us! We are HARDY FOLK!

Which brings me to this: Chip gets really frustrated that Alice won't ever slide down a metal slide. She won't ever play on a merry-go-round. She probably won't be swinging from any monkey bars set atop some very picturesque ASPHALT either.

Chip grew up in a house across the street from a very nice park that had all of these things (okay - not the monkey bars, I had THOSE at my grade school). And he loved the danger, the chance, the very real feeling of responsibility to be allowed to play on t
hese toys. So you can imagine just how irritated he was when they went and tore all the splintery wood and metal out and replaced them with the very familiar plastic "activity centers". You know, the ones with the colorful junk to climb on that aren't quite so dangerous, but aren't nearly as fun, either.

Chip misses things like the metal slide that can reach upwards of 450 DEGREES in the HOT SUN - just enough to give your thighs a nice smattering of blisters. He misses the merry-go-round, that steel discus of DEATH with the open sides, and the iron BARS, and all the SPINNING OH THE HUMANITY THE SPINNING.

This is a frequent topic around the Last Homely House:
the fact that Alice is growing up in a world that will require her to be in a booster seat until she's nearly in college. A world that wants so desperately to keep her safe (THE HAIL! THE HAIL!). A world that might, in fact, be sheltering her so very much, she's likely to become (in Chip's words) a pansy. He worries about the pansifying to a great deal, and I definitely see his point.

I was no great dare devil as a kid, but I did my fair share of bike riding in the street (NO HELMET), of swimming in pools (NO WATER WINGS), of playing on the monkey bars with the risk - always the risk - of falling.

I've talked about it before, that I don't want Alice to think that pain and failure - FALLING - won't happen to her, that it isn't waiting just around the corner to remind her that there is an opposite to everything good in this world. We're not masochists around here, either, and I certainly don't want her thinking that this world is all about the pain, per se, (and you can be sure we'll be following all the rules about helmets and such) but i
sn't it an important lesson? To learn that sometimes things are hard? That sometimes things hurt? That sometimes what we want most in life will come with a price of bruises, scabs, and scars?

I remember those monkey bars and the bruises they caused, the bruises that I earned from wanting to make it across that metal expanse. I wore the callouses, the bruises, the scabs like badges. I'm not sure Alice is going to have this same chance. Chip has suggested that by the time Bean is 12 there will be a bubble-wrapping station in every entryway and we'll be required to envelope our child in a nice plastic coating before she leaves the house. Then again, maybe we're wrong, and maybe the tide will turn. The image on our rice cereal box sure has me thinking that someone out there wants the babies to toughen up.

Do you see that? Those there are some babies who are earning their keep, yo. With the hard work and the sharp metal tools and the farming! In the end, maybe this is the answer: if she starts to get soft, we'll be shipping Alice off to some organic rice field in Oregon where they know the value of a hard day's labor.


Heidi said...

I remember the metal slide from my childhood! It seemed to be as tall
as the school itself. More than once we dragged our dog up that thing for what we thought would be
the best ride she would ever take!
I love reading your blog!

nutmeg said...

Alice has one great mom. I wish I knew this important lesson earlier as a mom myself.

Alice said...

hee, i'm with chip. i grew up learning not to touch hot things because if they did, i got burned. and playing outside every day, and (uh, maybe this wasn't necessary) using a chainsaw at the age of like 12. i know it's all to keep kids safe, but i kind of thing all the banging up i did when i was little toughened me up to deal with real life.

Amanda said...

I wish I remember where, but I just read an article about how children are no longer learning through making choices and taking risks (age appropriate) and that it will affect their job future. We shelter them so much that they never learn that falling hurts or that climbing a tree is hard but exilerating.

It's really hard as a parent to let them go a bit but... I suppose we have to.

Anonymous said...

I'm totally torn on the subject. I think of all the stupid daredevilly stuff I did as a kid and would be horrified to see my kid do it, even knowing I survived fine. I also see the point about pansyfying our kids and wonder if it's what is turning us into a nation of whiners (myself included).

During our stay in corporate housing, we lived close to a less than stellar neighborhood that we often drove through on our way to our fave breakfast place. The area was obviously not well off socio-economically, yet they had a small, new play area next to some much older basketball courts. Sounds nice, yes? The thing was that the play equipment was metal. Shiny, pretty metal that looked very nice, but there was not one tree within 50 yards of the play equipment. Anyone brave enough to play on the equipment would in essence be donating at least 2 layers of blistered skin for the privilege. Hubby and I discussed how you'd like to think the new equipment was not metal due to the circumstance of the neighborhood, but sadly I imagine it was.

Amy said...

The metal slide also ALWAYS had a corner of the metal at the top pulling apart from the slide. That was always fun for ripping clothes or your skin! :)

wandering nana said...

There are things you protect your children from and there are things you let your children experience. It's hard to watch them fall but as long as it is not life threatening they should be able to try and fail so they learn how to get up and try again. We let our 2 oldest girls(10 & 12) go to Egypt to stay with the grandparents and that was over 20 years ago and people freaked out and thought we were terrible to let them go to a dangerous country (we bombed a couple of months later). I said "how can I deny them this opportunity?" Children can still experience what you did, you just have to be there.

Chip said...

No doubt parents need to watch after their kids. I think the pinnacle of my frustration is a negligent parent blaming/suing a city park for their careless kid getting hurt at a plastic park, rather than taking personal responsbility. How long will it be before all kids areas have a manditory bubble wrap station before playing?
When we were growing up we respected the metal swing sets, the merry-go-round, the tire swings,.. we even respected the streets when we played two hand touch football.
All summer long there have been commercials in Seattle suggesting that kids go outside and play. What does that mean?
Maybe I'm just oldschool, but I don't want my little girl to miss the experiences of a tire swing or trampoline

Susie Q said...

Amen sister, amen. I hate that we have become a world where we can no longer tell our kids be home before the streetlights come on, the kids in my neighborhodd ran together in packs of at least 10 and we were never scared to walk home at night. Kids today are so insulated because parents are so afraid of child predators,(and rightly so)them getting hurt, getting dirty or getting sick. So many parents run after their kids with antibacterial wipes that kids don't have a chance to experience anything. My kids have eaten dirt and I think it's good for them to get dirty, play on metal playground equipment, and experience life, not wrapped up in bubble wrap.

tearese said...

You live in Rivendale?
I miss teeter totters.
What I hate about the plastic play areas is all the children and I get seriously shocked on a daily basis! Safe? HA!