Monday, November 8, 2010

The WTF Years

Remember those park Merry-Go-Rounds growing up? I know most of you do, but maybe we can find a YouTube video of one for Palm Boy and Tully, who have led childhoods of depravity having grown up in the post Merry-Go-Round era.

We would all get in that thing, and one of our friends would spin it, and spin it, and spin it... til the world was a blur , your brain was plastered against one side of your skull and the sandwich you ate was backing up into your throat.

God help you if you should lose your grip and the centrifugal forces threw your ass 25feet outward.
It was danger. It was excitement. And it was fucking fun!

Sure, every now and then some idiot would take a header, bust a lip, lose a tooth, maybe break an arm... (ask my li'l brother, ha! ha! twice. ha! ha! ha!)
But we learned early and easy: if you can't go 'round with the big kids, go sit on the bouncy horses.

Same thing with those jungle gyms you could hang upside down on, or the big space ship with the 20ft slide that dared a kid to jump off half the way down.

Now, the playground is a dull place. No dangerous spinner (ever stop to think that we didn't have a childhood obesity problem back then because we often purged our lunch at the playground.) The jungle bars have been replaced with a safety conscious climbing apparatus, slides are enclosed and even the swings have seat belts.

Then came helmet laws for kids on Big Wheels, roller skates, and skate boards... making being an active kid rather inconvenient, if you ask me. (What? Obesity problem again?)

Taking the childhood out of childhood seems to be the order of the era, but even that is not enough when, as you've heard by now, San Francisco regulates the 'happy' out of Happy Meals and Pennsylvania seeks to ban cake at birthday parties.


We have got to be creating an entire lost generation of fucked up, pussified, angry, joy-deprived kids.
Just wait 'til they're old enough to realize how much national debt they owe.


kr said...

My kids climb on top of enclosed slides.

And we still have merry go rounds--Portland took them out for a while, but ran out of money in time for citizen objections to be heard and halt the process ... luckily for me, two neighborhood parks didn't lose theirs :)! And the money spent since then as maintained the merry-go-rounds and their running surface/landing surface, so I know we're good (for now, anyhow). We do attend schools that have a "youngest rider defines the speed" policy, tho.' In true public settings, there is usually a parent or three making sure the younger kids get a turn and then they get out of the way ... a different set of useful social lessons for the kids ;).

my name is Amanda said...

Are merry-go-rounds missing from playgrounds?! (That's a genuine question.)

Well Gino, they aren't banning cake in PA. It says they limited the party food to one sweet treat. So the one sweet treat could be cake.

Personally I like how my elementary school (a Catholic school, incidentally) did it. On your birthday, you could bring treats to share with the class, but it was optional. I think the class would say "HB!" either way. Cupcakes were very popular. The b-day kid would walk around and hand them out. We did this in the afternoon during the milk snack, and there was no party. At a Catholic school in the 80s, you could still do all the holidays, Christmas, Halloween, etc. I'm glad I was a kid then. Now it's effing "Harvest Celebration" and no costumes. What a bunch of crap. As if Halloween was ever anything but secular in our country.

RE: SF and Happy Meals... I think I disagree with SF on that one. Schools - public organizations - are one thing, and I think nutritional standards there must be strict, but Happy Meals are part of the private sector, and banning them is incredibly paternalistic. Reeks of government control of how you feed your child ALL THE TIME. Hinges on the body autonomy thing.

(As a digression, I get incredibly irate about how society - not just the government - thinks that they should have a say in what a pregnant woman eats and drinks.)

I think it's important for adults (and lawmakers) to balance the need for safety and nutrition regulations with the power of nostalgia, AND the tendency to body police. The cupcakes of my day are a treasured memory for me, but there will be different treasured memories to replace that, for my children (should I have them). What's crap is when we over-regulate, and take away Halloween and the merry-go-rounds!! (Truly, we still have merry-go-rounds, right?)

my name is Amanda said...

Ooh, I should clarify - I know the Happy Meal story isn't about "banning" them - it's about stopping them from offering the toy unless they meet nutritional standards. I don't know...maybe it could be compared the kids + cigarette ads, but at the same time, it's the parents who choose Happy Meals for kids, as opposed to cigarettes (well, adult would buy them, but usually this would not be the parent).

kr - Happy to hear that some merry-go-rounds are still thriviing in Portland. :) I think that "youngest determines the speed" rule goes back to my day - seriously! It sounds familiar.

Gino said...

we were different: biggest kid spun the go round. we wanted it fast, remember?

(and the smallest kid usually flew the furthest.)

use to love it when the teenagers were hanging out. they could make that thing catch air, or so it seemed.

Vanesa Littlecrow W. said...

I used to love those Merry-Go-Round. They can still be found in MN, but they go super slow. And you are right about the monkey bars, they suck. When I was a kid they towered over cement. Climbing them took balls!

RW said...

What pissed SF off is that the fast food industry made specific promises to increase the nutritional values of their fare and have been doing the opposite ever since. They lied, basically.

Making a law about nutritional values and all that, toys and whatnot, is a bit much for me only because my big complaint is WHERE ARE THE PARENTS?? for Christ's sake.

That's what Moms and Dads are for. Or so I thought!

But you know me, I am a food snob to the top. McDonald's and Burger King and the chicken houses and all that bullshiite are out of the picture for me and when I'm watching my grand daughter - sorry - not gonna go there.

Well okay when I'm in California I make sure to take one trip to an In n Out but that's just for cultural study purposes. I luv In n Out animal style. That's California!


tully said...

Happy Meal Ban? So kids will just stop eating! You think they're going to eat food for food's sake?

Yes, and what about Burger King and Wendy's? Kind of a sweet deal for them, ain't it?

And I sense I am one of the last kids on earth to use the Merry-Go-Round at recess. When I taught "Safety Town" as a volunteer, I recall letting them on that apparatus, but insisting on spinning it myself (at a reasonable speed) and ensuring that everyone held on tight. There are compromises on these things. Of course that was an old playground. The new ones are as you say.

Brian said...

I loved the merry-go-round.

At the playground at the park where I played little league (back when that didn't involve tactical body armor at every position, either) they had this awesome piece of equipment I never saw anywhere else, and I'm sure is not allowed anymore. It was basically a big oval-shaped thing (imagine an egg on its side), the bottom half of which was sort of a sheet metal half-pipe and the top half was monkey bars. The whole thing was mounted on a pivot and springs so that it could rock back and forth (fairly slowly), about 15 degrees in either direction.

It was big enough for easily a dozen kids to be on and/or in at any given time. So the game was a few kids climb on top of the monkey bars, while others run back and forth inside, rocking it and trying to knock them off.

It was awesome.

I think that kids are losing something in their development if they are completely protected from bodily injury. Learning that you can take a bit of a beating and recover is avaluable lesson. Pretty much everything in life that is worth having (love, an education, a fulfilling vocation or avocation, travel to unfamiliar places) involves being willing to get hurt in some fashion or another. I feel sorry for anyone that doesn't learn how to take risks.

Anonymous said...

One rite of passage we had growing up was the first jump off the 12 foot diving board at the local pool. One of my friends fell off and broke his arm. Did his parents sue anybody, no; as far as I know, they took him to the doctor, put him in a cast, then told him not to be such a klutz next time.


Gino said...

KD: kinda like my dad telling me: "that blood on your shirt better be his".

we are different generation. thank God my parents grew pre-60's.

Night Writer said...

How about jumping out of the swings? Or trying to take your opponent's head off playing tetherball? My favorite playground game, though, was Red Rover. A friend of mine got clothes-lined playing that one time and cracked his head on the pavement. Didn't stop anyone from playing the next day, though.

With all this "safety" nowadays it's no wonder kids would rather play video games for excitement. That really works the old cardio!

Jade said...

I loved the merry go round... I learned to wedge myself on the bars so I wouldn't fly off (as you can imagine... if I didn't, I was the first to go. And yes... I fleeeewwwwwwww)

We would also fill up our Mr. Turtle Pool in the back yard, swing on the swings and fly off at the pinnacle to land ass-first in the 1.5 foot puddle of a pool.

Good times.

As to McD's... we rarely, if ever, eat fast food. I just can't stand it, and we've talked so much about nutrition in our house (and watch food network and the cooking channel) that our daughter has very nearly turned into a food snob. (read: she wants her 9 year birthday dinner to include crab bisque, please) We aren't insanely strict about junk food, but if we are out and about we opt for a sandwich places or Chipotle.
My point being... as a parent we have the option of driving right on past McD's, it shouldn't take a fucking law to remove the toys from the junk food.

And banning birthday cakes...
I actually appreciate G's school's approach to the classroom goodies.
First of all, when I was growing up we didn't bring treats for our birthdays... we were sung Happy Birthday, but that was it for us (so I feel no sense of loss about that policy) The class parties, though, included quite a lot of sweet treats.
When G was in her old school I was honestly appalled at the food parents chose to bring to the first gathering. Costco flats of cupcakes, cookies, more cookies, candies, cheap high-sugar juice. My thought was "holy crap, every one of these kids is going to puke tonight".
At her end of the year party one parent brought veggies with dip, another brought strawberries, and another brought cupcakes. The veggies were munched on a lot by the kids, as were the strawberries. They had cupcakes too, but they ENJOYED the other food as well.
This year we are at a new school, new rules... no birthday party cakes (due mainly to food allergy issues) and class parties need to be 2/3 healthy food, 1/3 can be sweets. They are also allowed a snack time whenever they feel the need, but it has to be healthy (fruit or vegetable) and cannot be disruptive or messy.

These rules seem reasonable to me, and it makes sense (because what teacher wants a bunch of kids hopped up on sugar snacks?)

But then again, I'm one of those crazy moms who tells her daughter she shouldn't buy food for the toy, and she could get a better quality toy at the store for the same price as the meal, minus the stomach ache from the greasy food.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

Gee, we ban all these "dangerous" things, and the kids get fat.


W.B. Picklesworth said...

We can't make the world safe. But we can prepare children to live in a dangerous world. Some bumps and bruises in childhood is a means to that end.

kr said...

(Brian, that toy sounds TOTALLY awesome :). )

Bike Bubba said...

Maybe the reason they're "pussifying" kids (is that a word? Should be!) is that they don't want it to be TOO unpleasant when they figure out what's been done to them. :^)

Oh, not another lash with a wet noodle! No, not the comfy chair!

Bike Bubba said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Palm boy said...

I'm from texas, we absolutely had merry-go-rounds 15 years ago.

But I don't see them much any more.
This is just part of a pacification that's been going on for quite a while. Its pretty bad.