The wussification of American kids
Back in the spring some bureaucratic types in the Great State of New York announced plans to ban certain kid’s activities on playgrounds. Legislation was apparently introduced to “protect” kids from the horrors of dangerous activities.
What was banned? Games like “mumbley peg,” which all the kids in my neighborhood played back in Tennessee, a game that involved throwing knives? Nope.
BB gun battles, which I also regularly engaged in during neighborhood conflicts in the surrounding woods? Nope.
How about model rocket fights? Those were pretty cool.
Model rocket fights involved hollowing out the balsa nosecones of Estes Industries model rockets, filling the nose cones with black gun powder, and launching it toward an “enemy” kid who was doing the same to you. When the engine gases reached the nose cone, the rocket would explode with a force rattling windows. Nope, not that either.
Cherry bomb or M-18 battles, in which the combatants threw these powerful explosives toward each other as though they were hand grenades? Again, no.
The list of activities to be banned included the following: wiffle ball, tag, Red Rover, Capture the Flag, flag tag, flag football, dodge ball, steal the bacon, kickball, crab soccer, and a few other games that I did not play as a child.
A public outcry arose from the citizens of New York and the play police backed off their proposals — sort of.
As well meaning as some people may be, the great danger is not that some children might be injured on the playground (which they will be) during the playing of some of these games but that there is the real danger that the children will grow up to be a generation of sissies and wimps.
The world is a dangerous place and the playground is one place where that lesson begins to be taught. There will be bumps and bruises in life and those who do not learn how to deal with that reality will be unprepared to face the dangers of adult life. Such persons, especially boys, may grow up to be wussies.
The definition of wussy, according to one dictionary, is “A person regarded as weak or timid and especially as unmanly.” The World English Dictionary has this definition: “a feeble or effeminate person.” I was raised as one of two boys and helped to raise three boys and I can attest to this: wimps, sissies, and wussies have a very rough life.
One of the places that boys (and girls) learn competition, struggle, victory, defeat, recovery, standing up for oneself, success, failure, and learning to deal with pain is on the playground.
The sting of a dodge ball strike is nothing compared to the impact of a tackle on the football field or the pain of rejection when asking for a date or when looking for a job.
The risks of playing tag pales into insignificance when comparing it to the dangers an 18-year-old Marine or soldier in Afghanistan faces on a daily basis.
It is on the playground (which almost always has adults and rules present) that children test themselves and begin to overcome fear.
But, even with the public outcry, the New York fun cops still struck a blow ... this time at summer camps. The games are not banned at camps, but they come at a play-at-your-own-risk cost. Camps that want campers to play the games will be required to pay a $200 registration fee and have medical staff on hand.
However, statistics show that of more than 640,000 children who attend camps, less than two-tenths of 1 percent are injured in any manner.
The issue will likely be raised again. The result, if the fun cops have their way, will not simply be safer playgrounds but the wussification of American kids. It would be better to get a black eye or a bloody nose than to grow up unprepared for the hard knocks of life.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at email@example.com.]