by Lianne Castelino www.whereparentstalk.com
I recently wrote in this space about my disdain for the beauracracy our society has created around free play — visible in padlocked tennis courts with no one playing or basketball backboards with no rims, forget about actual nets — two basic examples. Yes there are exceptions but by and large we scratch our heads in wonder at the skyrocketing obesity statistics (new stats out this week show the numbers have tripled in the last 3 decades), why many kids these days are mesmerized by electronics and how many just cannot play freely without being burdened by adult-imposed rules and league regulations.
So we placed our basketball and hockey nets in the front of our house as we did in our previous residences. However, in this house, the basketball net is on the edge of the driveway, hanging over the street. In quiet protest over the lack of free play, we took the extra step of leaving a basketball beside the net for anyone to play with whether we are at home or not.
It has been quite something to watch.
The other day our entire family came home and as we turned the corner to our street saw a dozen kids in front of our house. They were engrossed in a wicked game of basketball. The sheer number of them took us all off guard for maybe 3 seconds. Our boys and even our daughter joined in and all 15 of them were at it for hours on end.
On the weekend, everyone else was out on Saturday afternoon and I was home alone. I looked out the window at one point and saw a lone boy practicing his free throw shooting all by himself.
Almost every day after school, 4 or 5 of them gather to play, knock on the door to summon our boys —- 9 times out of 10, our boys don't know all of these new friends — but are happy to join in. They organize themselves, big, small, skilled, learning and have a blast.
It is a heartening scene to watch.
The other day one of my sons' even suggested going out there with some freezies for his playmates, most of whom he did not know. He said they were quite surprised and oh so happy at the offer, on what was a particularly scorching afternoon.
This does not have to be difficult.
If we can stop ourselves for a minute, stop throwing money at the 'problems' and focus instead on the 'symptoms' — results will be achieved.
Problem: obese kids. Symptom: lack of exercise in school, after school, limited free play except for organized sports which many cannot afford.
Problem: youth crime. Symptom: bored kids who cannot channel their energies.
Solution? Keep kids busy, engaged, getting exercise. Pointless strategy? Throwing more money at obesity studies and increasing police and security budgets.
We do have the money so let us spend it wisely.
Our basketball net cost about $300 dollars (several years ago, I cannot remember exact amount) and the hockey net was about $(200). Total $500.
We're not talking millions and zillions here.
There is a lot to be said for keeping it simple.
Now all we have to do is work on those insensitive drivers who sometimes honk the kids as they drive hurriedly past them. Don't these adults see what is going on?