Monday, January 17, 2011

The Ants Came Marching Two By Two

Last week, the kids at school made a spontaneous ant line that marched along the top of the snow banks that line the school yard. I wished I had a video camera because it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. There must have been 60 kids marching along. I half expected them to start singing "The ants came marching two by two..." It was such simple fun in the snow that it made most of the adults in the yard smile. (All but one yard supervisor anyway.) Strike another blow for common sense!

Notice the kid in the background running to join the fun?
Hoorah! Hoorah!
This morning, moments after I took this shot of my three at the end of the line of about a dozen kids, the same yard supervisor came over and made them stop. My heart sank but I didn't say anything, except to remind them when they came to me to complain that she's the boss and they have to show her respect by following the rules. She promptly came over to me and said "I know it probably defies common sense to ask kids to stop playing in the snow." To which I responded "MMhmm. Good old fresh air and exercise is good for them and they love playing in the snow." She then said "Someone could get hurt. Someone could get pushed over that fence, especially when there are more kids out here. There are 600 kids out here at recess!"

She may have been right. The bank is higer this week than last, and someone could get pushed over, especially bigger kids who are horsing around. The same bigger kids that come to school wearing sweatshirts and no hatts or mitts, and who have no interest in joining this little kid's game. The same big kids who, fairly or not, are expected to be role models for the younger, are completely oblivious to them. They were too busy this morning throwing snowalls and giving each other snowjobs to even notice what this ant line was doing.

The kids that were playing the follow the leader game this morning weren't horsing around. They weren't pushing. They weren't hurting anything. They weren't even running. As far as we knew until that moment, they weren't breaking any rules. What they were doing was laughing and having old fashioned fun together.

I do understand that the yard supervisors are on the hook if anything goes wrong, and a lot of parents these days tend to overreact if they think little Johnny or Jenny is even in the slightest danger of scratching an elbow. I was one of the only parents to see what was happening this morning. If someone had of gotten pushed over and broken their arm or worse, some adult would have thought it was the end of the world. Don't get me wrong, I'm not in favour of throwing our kids to the wolves. I don't think we should let them do things that are too risky for them. I also believe that we have an extra responsibility to younger kids, who can be impulsive and haven't yet learned to weigh consequences before they act. That's one of the reasons why adults supervise the yard. 

I don't think we need to suck the fun out of everything they do just because something might go wrong. Personally, I don't think it would have been child endangerment to let them continue. I also think it would have made more senese to deal with the big kids who were clearly disregaurding the rules, rather than to stop all the little ones from having fun.

It seems to me that the little ones, who are doing things the right way, have a lot to teach those bigger kids. Maybe instead of squashing what's going right "just in case", we should address what needs to be fixed. It's easier to focus on what the little kids are doing though. They listen better and they don't often fight back when we impose rules on them. Not yet anyway.

I don't know, but it could be that part of the reason our kids stop listening to us, is that we squash the life out of them in situations like this.


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