Bruce Williamson asks:
Appreciated your recent post about playing it safe! Our culture doesn’t do anything in balance, so I guess the next pendulum swing from this over-rigid, fearful, lawyer-dominated, control freak approach will be what? Articles extolling the little manhood-building benefits of small boys playing in traffic?!
Do you know anyone who has/is/might be exploring the role of the vacant lot in many of our childhoods? These have mostly disappeared, I think, in the way we knew but maybe not. I do know for sure, however, that in California all of those vacant lots are worth about $500,000 each! For all I know there’s already a book out celebrating their anarchical wildness.
And then answers:
Followed the advice I hadn’t taken yet and googled vacant lots. Most of what I found was about the toxins and dangers lurking in vacant lots, and I certainly do not discount the reality of any of these hazards ? especially in urban areas where vacant lots have become the dumping ground for everything from garbage to chemical waste to bodies, and which are often the hangouts of people waiting and wanting to do our children harm.
Perhaps what I’m really trying to rediscover is the feeling of the vacant lot. I think there’s some of that intent in your junkyard sports approach to play. If we can no longer safely encourage vacant lot play, what do we have or what can we create that helps replicate its surprise, diversity, wonder and wildness?
This article reminds me of a mother at one of my workshops who told me the story of her five-year-old daughter. The daughter was in kindergarten and each day the teacher gave the children tiny bits of homework. Her mom told her that it was important to do her homework first and that after she was done they would play together. This arrangement went well for a couple of weeks. But then the daughter marched up to her mom and said, “You make up rules. I want to make up some rules.” With a sparkle in her eye the mom replied, “What do you mean?” So the daughter told her. “I want to play first, ’cause when I play it gets me smart for my homework.”