Mud, Meddling, and Make Believe

“Yeah! My son came home covered in mud again. He wasn’t pushed but said that he told the older boys he didn’t want to slide but they kept on telling him to slide. I know the responsibility lies with him to walk away or speak up, but I can’t help thinking the other moms don’t appreciate the muddy clothes either. Is there anything else we can do?”

That was an email I received from a frustrated parent. I had gone to check out what was happening a couple of times, but, of course, nothing was happening when I was there. The young boy wasn’t much help in identifying the older boys. Then, one day, I sauntered over and caught them in the act. Laid down the law! End of story…maybe.

I know for a fact the mother involved is going to read this and I am not in anyway downplaying her frustration at the muddy clothes (some of which was also messing up the buses). Still, I wonder if we have gone too far in not letting kids be kids. Sometimes that means getting messy. There was a part of me that felt I was meddling in some good old messy play. It reminded me of walking down the muddy lane to our house in northern Alberta and letting the mud squish between our toes. Though, come to think of it, Mom wasn’t too happy about that either.

As ACS celebrates its 60th anniversary, all the stories about what happened at school in the early years come out. The swamp at the back of the old Heritage campus was frequented by students but not so much by teachers during recess. As far as I know, everyone came out alive, and with some great stories. Who knows what wild adventures they created in that natural and unsupervised playground?

This week I saw a news report that Canada got a failing grade on how physically active our children are. Too much screen time was touted as one of the culprits. Ironically, we scored high on organized sports. But then it was pointed out that by the time you get suited up, get organized, get some coaching, and take your turn, the amount of actual physical activity involved is, well, not the 60 minutes of heart-pumping exercise that is recommended.

I have always told the students at school that one of the most important parts of my job is keeping them safe. Living with my own grandchildren, I keep my eyes open for their safety every day. Still, I know getting outside and getting active means they will get dirty, they will get hurt, and, playing with the older kids in the cul-de-sac or on the playground, they will likely try things they wouldn’t on their own. Sometimes they need a bandage, an ice-pack or some TLC.

But when I see the kids at school come in with red faces and green stains, or see my 3-year-old granddaughter taking her bike over a jump, I just want to laugh out loud.

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