Friday, September 08, 2006

Childhood Rearranged

I spent most of the weekend in the company of a precious little red head. She is only four years old, but you would swear she is much older. Her frame is petite, but once she is outside, she is a fireball on speed dial.

We were out the door on our way to shop for groceries...or so I thought. She turned her head up glancing at my face with a pitiful pleading look.

"You know nana, we have not gone to Sunshine Park today. I really, really want to go. Can we, can we? I squinted up into the sky wondering if it was going to rain any time soon. The sky is blue and clear. We were both dressed for the occasion, and I soon realized I could not simply drive right past the playground now.

K. loves to run. I swear that child never walks. She also runs on her tip toes most of the time, so she has killer calves. She is going to be a tall strong young lady some day. The most striking feature she possesses though, is her red hair. I have cut her bangs several times, but the mane of her hair flows down her back almost to her waist in gentle curls, and it attracts other children like flies to molasses.


We parked the car. I tried to prepare her for the amount of time we had to allot to her favorite pastime. She knows what "twenty minutes" means. We have worked on measuring time since she was about two years old. She walked into the middle of the grounds looking as if she was getting her bearings. Because she is so striking, it is not at all unusual for children to come right up to her and start playing. They usually end up chasing her, as she is not standing still in one place for long.

This is disconcerting to K. at times. She wants to run alone......we have discussions on this topic. I am sure she will figure it out.

K's new fascination is with the swings. She wants me to push her up higher and higher. We walked over to where a young father was holding his son in his lap gently swinging back and forth. I helped K into her seat and began to get into our usual rhythm. I soon noticed K's feet were dragging on the ground preventing me from getting her to her usual breaking point. I am sure I looked puzzled,when the young dad next to me said; "Amazing huh?" He pointed down to the wooden box which had an overlay of fake turf on the top.

"What the heck is that all about?" I asked him.

"It is supposed to keep the children from getting injured if they fall." he replied.

"If they fall and hit the edge of the box?" I asked.

He smiled and shook his head.

"Have you heard what they have done in Oregon?"

"No, what? I am from Oregon."

I was not prepared for his answer. It seems someone who is in charge of Parks and Recreation harr~harr) ....... someone who is paranoid beyond belief, has decided that children no longer should be on swings, slides, or playground equipment in parks. It is soon to be banned in Oregon.

How in the world did any of us ever live to be adults? I did not know what a helmet was. I doubt I would have worn knee pads or wrist guards. But I can remember skating for hours at a time around and around our city block, sometimes until dark forced me inside. And often with many bandaids covering my knees.

Are we going to have children with no idea of what childhood is all about? Children who are protected inside the confines of their home watching television or continuing to play on the computer?

Or is organized sports the only way they will get out and be able to just run.....you know...like a child, but one with a set agenda made up by an adult.

I have always been of the belief that when they took out real side walks in the new housing developments, it was the beginning of the end. You need a side walk to ride your bike, skate, jump rope, hop scotch, and run....all safely.

When our twenty minutes were up, I took K. by the hand and we strolled back to the car. I pondered how many more lovely memories would I be able to create with her like the one we just had.

Give me just a minute with the idiot who is probably sitting all cushy in their 15th floor office space breathing piped in air. What do they know of childhood memories and outdoor excursions? Minimal would be my guess.

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