Sometimes I wonder if we traveled back in time when we moved to Podunk. My first clue that our new town was, to put it kindly, Provincial with a capital “P” was when I first perused the DVD section of the local Borders book store. There I found not one, not two, but THREE copies of Peyton Place – practically right next to a copy of Imitation of Life.
You can’t even see those films on cable at 3 a.m. any more.
Since then, I’ve had a great deal of fun poking, well, fun at the local newspaper, The Podunk Suppository, which Beloved reads on a regular basis. In between groaning at editorials stating the internet should not be considered a valid source of information for school reports (Wikipedia was specifically named), I get a kick out of hearing about things like, oh, the Podunk SWAT team being called to rescue a toddler that has locked himself in a bathroom and is happily flushing his mother’s birth control pills and Midol down the toilet. Podunk has a SWAT team? I ponder. What – two guys in umpire padding armed with cattle prods?
All of this is only relevant in that Beloved read an article in this Sunday’s Suppository citing how a county in Florida banned running during recess at their elementary schools. Why, yes – Broward County did, indeed, ban running during recess.
Fear of litigation was the reason, of course – apparently, Broward County settled 189 playground lawsuits in five years. That bit of information I got off of – gasp! – the internet; however, the Suppository “journalist” seemed to be under the impression that the case of a child who, in the process of sliding down a playground slide head first, broke his leg had some bearing on the Broward County ban (the parents of the child successfully sued the school district for “inadequate supervision”).
The broken leg occurred in Indiana.
Now, my first thought when reading about the child breaking his leg while sliding head first – other than you have to be a special kind of clumsy to break your leg when sliding head first and therefore related to me in some way – is that why on earth would the parents sue the school? Kids have been sliding down playground slides head first for time immemorial and while I’m sure there have been more broken arms than legs involved, isn’t that part of childhood?
When did bruises, cuts, scrapes, stitches and broken bones stop being a normal part of childhood? Do we, as a society, really intend to raise our children in some sort of sterile cocoon where they never get hurt, never lose, never get dirty and are never told “No” for fear of injuring their delicate little psyches?
If my mother were still alive, she’d probably be frothing at the mouth about this subject. She raised four extremely accident prone children, and if she had attempted to sue someone every time we got hurt she would have spent 28 straight years dealing with lawsuits. This was especially true of my youngest sister, who was so clumsy she broke her leg when she fell off of the bunk beds in her room – while rolling over in her sleep.
Perhaps Mom should have sued the makers of the bunk beds (which were at least 25 years old and we inherited from my uncle) for being too tall…or the contractor who built our house for making the hardwood floor in our bedroom too hard. I would have loved to see a judge’s ruling on the time we were all playing in the back yard, and I got the brilliant idea to tie a rope to the handle of a ten-gallon plastic bucket, throw the rope over the branch of the tree, place my seven-year-old brother in said bucket and attempt to haul him up to our treehouse.
The physics involved in combining a plastic bucket, a 60-pound boy and gravity escaped me at the time, but who should Mother have sued? The manufacturer of the bucket, the manufacturer of the rope, or the manufacturer of the chain link fence he fell on, scraping and bruising himself badly (he was lucky he wasn’t impaled), when the aforementioned physics came into play?
Nor are my own children exempt from this. Tell me, whom should I have sued when Oldest Son, about 9, decided to lay on his stomach on a friend’s skateboard and propel himself forward with his arms – I would say he failed to stop when he encountered a cement step outside of our apartment, but his face did a dandy job of stopping him, thank you very much. Lawsuits were the farthest thing from my mind when I cracked up laughing every time I looked at that inch-wide scab that ran from the tip of his nose, up the bridge and ending smack-dab between his eyes.
I’m sorry, it was funny.
Or The Young One, who had a perpetual bruise on his forehead for about six months when he was two years old – I swear, the kid NEVER looked where he was going and ran head first into every table that came across his path, which all seemed to be exactly the same height as his forehead. Should I have sued the manufacturers of all the tables in not only our home but our family’s homes for not padding the edges?
The scariest incident, though, happened to Darling Daughter when she was in the third grade. She was swinging by her knees, upside down, at the top of the six-foot jungle gym on the school playground when she slipped and fell right on her head. Now, I had ALL sorts of issues on how the school handled telling me about it (the assistant principal basically called me and said, “Your daughter fell out of the jungle gym on her head AND SHE CAN’T MOVE!”), but even if something had happened beyond her scraping her scalp on the gravel, why should I have sued the school? Or the manufacturer of the jungle gym? If, heaven forbid, she had truly been seriously injured, suing someone wouldn’t undo that injury. Sometimes unfortunate, tragic things happen and all the money garnered in all the lawsuits in the world can’t fix it. Or, frankly, stop it.
This is, of course, only my opinion, but I think it’s a valid one.
Don’t like it? So sue me.