Thursday, September 9, 2010

Safety at What Cost?

This past weekend we attended a Scandinavian Festival at a local park. The playground was unlike most of the other (plastic, ultra-safe) playgrounds in our area. This one had things like swings with chains, metal monkey bars, and seesaws, none of which can be found at many, if any, parks these days, at least around here, though when we've traveled I've noticed that they are more common in other areas. I guess the risk of lawsuits and intolerance for any level of risk whatsoever are pretty extreme here.

I must say, I felt a little uneasy with my kids playing around the seesaws, afraid that they would get "cherry bombed" or whacked in the face as they tried to maneuver on and off. As I tried to assure myself that I managed to survive my childhood despite many hours spent seesawing with my sister and neighborhood friends, I watched with interest as the kids tried to figure the whole thing out. As pretty young children, we were able to negotiate the physics of levers pretty easily, figuring out who needed to sit where to make the whole thing work.

These kids did not have this fundamental understanding of the physical world. I watched as parents tried to explain it - but it isn't something that can be explained, at least not easily. It needs to be experienced. And when we strip down our kids' experiences to include only that are without risk, we also deprive them of so many opportunities to learn about themselves and about the world.

So, I'm certainly not advocating that we throw all caution to the wind. I'm all for airbags and carseats and seatbelts and all that kind of thing - but I think some sort of cost/benefit analysis is in order. What are we willing to sacrifice in order to protect our kids from some bumps and bruises?

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kelly,
    I agree with you! Safety need not be our determining factor for living. And sometimes safety in the moment does not equal lifelong safety. The more they know and are able to do, the more they will know and will be able to do! I had an article in the summer Mothering magazine on just this thing!

    Austin, TX