Friday, November 25, 2011

Banning balls a bozo brainstorm

It never ceases to amaze me just how goofy this country is becoming.
Direct from the you-have-got-to-be-freaking-kidding-me file comes the story of an elementary school in eastern Canada.
In the interest of safety, children are no longer allowed to bring soccer balls to school. Why, because a parent got hit in the head and suffered a ‘concussion.’ Really? From a soccer ball?
Welcome to the land of the wimps. Perhaps the ‘victim’ was mistaking a head ache for a concussion.
How hard can an elementary school student kick the ball anyway? I doubt hard enough to cause any real damage.
But the ever brilliant school leaders took immediate action and banned all soccer balls from the school field. They also banned footballs, volleyballs and even tennis balls due to the safety risk they posed to the students. What kind of a safety risk does a tennis ball present? If someone throws it at you as hard as they can, you might end up with a small, round red mark. I am speaking from experience here actually because that is one of the games we used to play in elementary school
Students are allowed to bring sponge, or other soft balls to play with. Have you ever tried to play soccer with a sponge? No you have not. No one has, because it is a stupid idea.
Kids are full of energy and they want to play, and if a soccer ball gets them outside and moving, then I say bring it on.
It is just another example of over-the-top safety fear mongers overreacting to a likely minor incident.
I am sure many of the people reading this remember the good ol’ days where we could actually play during lunch break. Why on occasion we would even – gasp – rough house with each other.
We would wrestle each other on the grass. We would play tackle football without any equipment. Did people get bumps and bruises? You bet they did, but it was all part of being a kid.
We used to climb trees too, and anyone who has climbed enough trees knows that eventually you will fall out of the tree. And when that inevitably did happen, did the school officials run out and cut down every tree on the playground? Of course not. They made sure the student did not suffer and serious injury and sent them on their way. At most, they would have announced we were no longer allowed to climb the trees (which we typically ignored of course).
It was a rare day when I did not have some sort of abrasion, cut or bruise. Likewise for all of my friends and guess what - we all survived our childhood. Every single one of us managed to reach adulthood despite a youth filled with such hazardous activities as soccer.
Do serious accidents happen? On occasion yes, and it is tragic when they do, but come on folks banning soccer balls and tennis balls – that seems a little much. Accidents can happen pretty much anywhere at anytime.
What are they going to do next? Cover the entire school yard with foam and give all the children full body armor to wear every single moment of the day.
In Grade 7 a friend of mine (yes, I actually had friends) walked into the edge of a door that was opening. It was a fluke accident and a matter of perfect timing of him walking and the door opening. It could happen to anyone at any time. Did they take out all the doors? Of course not. They just made sure he was OK and life went on.
Oh, by the way, he also survived the horrendously dangerous childhood of contact sports and opening doors.
I am all for keeping kids safe, but let’s keep it within the realm of sanity. Several of the parents are upset over the ball ban, as well they should be, and also feel kids should be allowed to be kids and play, even if it does mean the occasional minor injury.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Junior learns a lesson, I have fun teaching him one

I knew the phone call was coming.
And when it did, the panic in his voice was loud and clear.
Mission accomplished.
The mission involved my 15-year-old son, who recently purchased a shiny new BMX bike – a rather expensive BMX bike.
He had a summer job and I agreed to pay for a portion of the bike and he was thrilled to get it. He had his eye set on a certain one – not the one on sale of course, that would be too easy – but he was determined and knew the bike he wanted.
Having known Junior for so long, I knew that once he locked in on something, that was it, there was no changing his mind.
OK, it was his money (mostly) so he grabbed the 2012 model and was happier than cat teasing a blind dog.
He posted the good news, he told his friends and he showed off the fancy two-wheeled wonder. He also did something I did not approve of and warned him against several times – he would leave the bike in front of the garage, unlocked.
“That’s not smart. Someone will spot it and all they have to do is walk 30 feet from the sidewalk and they got themselves a brand new bike.”
To which he gave the response most teenagers prefer to give: a sigh, a brief look of ‘you worry too much pops’ followed by, “I know, I know.”
This went on for a while until opportunity knocked and I improvised a plan. Operation Scare the Crap out of Junior was a moment of inspiration as I came home from work, walked up the driveway and saw his bike sitting next to the garbage cans behind our travel trailer.
At first, I was simply going to go into the house and once again remind him to lock up his bike, but it was a conversation we had many times with little effect, so I thought a new plan of attack might be in order.
Actions speak louder than words so I put down my lunch kit, grabbed his bike and put it in the backyard.
I then went about my evening rituals as if nothing was amiss. I had a nice supper, chatted with the Missus for a while before heading out to my martial arts class.
The Missus was also going out and I asked Junior what he was planning on doing that evening.
“Uh, I dunno, probably go for a bike ride.”
“You do that, Skippy,” was my parting comment. When I got to my martial arts class I thought it best if I bring my phone into the training area – something I never do.
But, circumstances were a little different this time and besides I was really looking forward to his panicked phone call.
And sure enough, 45 minutes into the class the phone summoned me. Everyone wanted me to put it on speaker so they could enjoy the conversation as well, but I opted to take this call in private.
“Dad, did you put my bike in the garage?” was the first thing a very stressed teen asked.
“No, I didn’t. Why would I put your bike in the garage?” was my honest answer as I had put the bike in the backyard.
“But…I…I…thought it was in there.” The panic was reaching a crescendo of epic proportions.
I told Junior I saw his bike sitting in the driveway when I got home – unlocked – but I did not put it in the garage.
I could feel the panic reach an all-time high through the phone and felt it was time to let Junior off the hook and tell him where the bike was.
The relief was noticeable. There was a double blessing in the bike situation: first, Junior learned how crappy it would be if someone stole his bike and he should take better care of it. Secondly, I really enjoyed teaching him that lesson.
Since then, his bike has been locked up tighter than Fort Knox.
Like I said, mission accomplished.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hey dad, can i have a ride?

As a child, I can remember asking my parents to give me a ride here, or give me a ride there.
The top destination was a small corner store a couple of miles from the family homestead. We lived out in the sticks on a couple of acres and there were huge gardens to tend to and numerous fruit trees to care for, so ma and pa would always say they were too busy.
Even when they weren’t busy they still would not give us a ride.
“Why when I was your age I used to walk 15 miles just to snatch an apple from a tree and then 17 miles back home again. We didn’t have corner stores when I was a kid, or a car. In fact, the wheel had not even been invented yet so we had to walk - everywhere.”
At that point we gave up and walked to the store, grumbling all the way about how when I am a grown up and have kids ‘I am going to give them a ride whenever they want one. I’m not going to make my poor children trudge along the side of the road like I have to. Maybe I will get grabbed by a grizzly bear or a Sasquatch - that would teach them. They sure would have wished they had given me a ride then.’
Of course, there was no grizzly or mysterious mountain ape waiting to ambush us as we went to get a pop and a bag of chips.
Now, many years later, I am the father of children and do I jump up and give them a ride to wherever they want to go?
“Why when I was your age I had to walk 15 miles to the corner store and then 17 miles back, and I liked it. It was good exercise and we never complained and we spent all of our spare time reading our bibles and helping thy neighbour. We also never got in to trouble and were very respectful to authority figures.”
The kids would grumble and complain, but they would manage to walk the 10 blocks to the store and return again.
If the distance was too far, I would give them a ride (as my parents did for me) but for those short trips, you’re on your own kid.
My wife on the other hand does thing a little differently. She will give them a ride pretty much every single time.
“Oh, what’s that son? You need to get the newspaper at the end of the driveway? Hang on a second, I’ll give you a ride.”
Her mom is the same way, if not even worse.
“Oh you need to go somewhere? Why don’t you wait here and I will drive the van up to the front steps so you don’t have to walk as far to get into the vehicle.”
With service like that, you can see why it did not take long before I was the last person they asked for a ride.
Instead of burning more fossil fuels, I would refer them to the nice mountainbike they have sitting in the garage, the public transit system or even the good, old-fashioned Shoe Leather Express. All three of those systems took me a long way in my youth (grumbling all the way, mind you) and all three have the same ability to transport the people of today.
“But I don’t want to walk, my bike is all the way in garage and the city bus takes too long.”
“Hmmm, you present an interesting case child, one I will have to think about. Having mulled it over, the only answer I can come up with is boo-hoo to you too.”
I may be breaking a vow I made when I was a child, but back then I also swore allegiance to the Secret Fraternity of Booger Flickers so you can’t hold me to everything.

Squished frog makes for good clean fun

I ended up spending the rest of the school year looking over my shoulder, jumping at every movement I caught out of the corner of my eye and peering around every corner before venturing forward.
Why you ask - because of a frog. No I did not have a deep-seated frog-aphobia, but rather a case of revenge-aphobia.
It started during an elementary school camping trip to an area lake. Nothing scary about that, right? Well, had me and a buddy not been full of boyish energy, a situation would not have arisen that resulted in me developing a justified case of paranoia.
The incident involved a pick-up truck, a hard-luck frog, an idea that seemed like a good one at the time and my friend.
Now, before I get into the gory details of the incident, I must provide some context into why I did what I did. My friend, Jeff, and I used to play a game where we were always trying to maim each other in some way - to cause the other discomfort, embarrassment or good, old-fashioned pain as a way of interacting throughout the school day.
It’s no wonder I have a nervous twitch.
‘The Incident’ was merely an extension of our little game, in which it was always better to give than receive.
The day began like normal – everyone stumbled out of their tents, had breakfast, did a little class study thing before heading to the beach for an afternoon of higher education in the area of goofing around.
It took about 10 minutes to walk from our campsite to the beach, and it was along this winding road ‘The Incident’ took place.
It began with a rather large frog hopping across the blacktop, only to be run over by a passing Ford.
“Ewww, that is disgusting,” was the general consensus because Kermit’s hapless cousin was only half run over. The truck ran over the back half of the frog, squeezing some innards out of the front of the frog. Enough said about that.
The frog was as dead as it was ever going to be and everyone gave it a wide birth. Well, almost everyone. I saw it as an excellent opportunity to continue the game with my good buddy.
In a moment of inspiration, I grabbed the dead critter by one of its legs and threw it Frisbee style at Jeff. I never actually expected to hit him, let alone smack him square in the face, but the projectile of yuck sailed straight and true and hit him right in the mush with a kind of splatting sound.
The world around me stopped. Everyone stared at Jeff as the frog slid off his face and landed on the ground. Then they looked at me, then the looked back at Jeff, then they looked at me again.
I was trying very hard not to laugh because while I was aiming for his face, I never thought in a million years I would actually hit the target. In fact, I never expected to hit him at all.
But it was too late now, the die had been cast, or in this case the squished frog had been thrown.
Jeff looked down at the frog, then looked up at me and I knew it was time to vacate the area.
And vacate I did, with Jeff hot on my heals. I was in really good shape back then so I knew I had the wheels to keep running until Jeff calmed down and gave up the chase.
Problem was, Jeff was also in good shape and had little desire to let me go and we ran for miles around that campground. I managed to elude Jeff on the initial chase, but we had two more days of camping and then a couple months of school to survive. And I knew Jeff would be after me the entire time until revenge was achieved.
Jeff did get his revenge and it involved a very rotten salmon at the side of a spawning creek, a well-timed hook of my left foot, me falling to the ground and my left arm embedding in the fish with a disgusting splat.
Satisfied with his revenge, I could now live the rest of the school year in peace. Well, sort of, because now I had to seek revenge for his revenge, then he would seek revenge, then I would seek revenge, then…