Kids at play

by DaniGirl on October 24, 2006 · 14 comments

in Life in Ottawa, Mothering without a licence

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I may in fact be the most athletic person in my family. And then I’m going to wait for a minute until you stop rolling around on the floor laughing and sputtering and saying, “No, really?” before I justify myself. Because those of you that know me (I’m thinking of you in particular, Fryman) might be hesitant to classify me as anything but dexterously challenged. But I do go to the gym weekly, and I’ve played organized sports over the years with enthusiasm if not ability.

I worry about the boys and physical activity, and I worry that I’m doing them a disservice by not doing more to foster a sense of the fun of sport in them. Right now, they’re little perpetual-motion machines and I long for them to just SIT STILL for six minutes in a row, but I know the time will come when the lure of the TV and video games lull them into a sendentary stupor, and I want to make sure that being active is a regular part of their lifestyle, whether it’s organized sports or just running around like fools in the park across the street.

With all this in mind, I’ve been keenly watching a few stories percolating through the media lately. Did you see the story about the school in Attleboro, Massachusetts that banned tag in the school yard? The elementary school has forbidden tag, touch football and any other ‘chase’ game from the school yard at recess, citing concerns for the safety of the children. Tag, of all things. Can you imagine? You know what? Kids are going to get hurt – scrapes, bruises and contusions are part of growing up. Heck, I think my parents had a dedicated parking spot at the local ER when we were growing up, and we survived.

Less black-and-white is another issue locally. As there is every year around this time, there’s been an article in the paper about a family who got in trouble from the local bylaw enforcement office because they let their kids play hockey in the street. As happens every year, the article has been followed by a flurry of op-ed pieces and letters to the editor and radio call-in show debates on whether kids should be allowed to play road hockey (it’s Canada; it’s always about the hockey here) or whether the kids are a neighbourhood menace.

In this case, the family had been living in their new home on a quiet cul-de-sac for a whole month when a bylaw officer paid a visit because their four- and seven-year-old boys are apparently breaking the law by playing hockey in the street. The article says a neighbour called the bylaw officer to complain five times in a two-hour span one day.

This one, I can see two sides. I wouldn’t let my kids play on my street because while it’s a fairly quiet suburban street, it’s still a through-way and the traffic is steady if not constant. If we lived on a court or cul-de-sac, though, I’d probably be fine with the kids playing – as long as they were old enough to understand and respect the traffic, and the neighbours.

And yet, I can also see where some people might have a problem with the noise. My parents used to live next door to a family that had one of those huge basketball nets set up in the driveway, and they’d be out dribbling the ball (thwack, thwack, thwack – crash, as it bounced off the metal garage door) and hollering at each other well after dark in the summer, noisy enough that you had to close the windows to get any sleep.

In the case of the kids and the quiet cul-de-sac, I think the problem could and should have been resolved between neighbours, without involving the bylaw office. These people have to live with each other, after all. But it’s still a bit of a surprise to me that here in Ottawa, of all places, we have an actual law (City of Ottawa bylaw No. 2003-530: Part IX, clause 93, subsection 1) that says “No person shall play or take part in any game or sport upon a roadway.” A law that bans children from playing in the street… I don’t know about that.

I’m interested in your thoughts on this one. My kids are just on the threshold of this kind of thing, taking tentative baby steps out of my yard and into the big world, and I’m full of thoughts on how the world should be, just like I was full of righteous ideas on handling fussy eaters and non-sleepers and tantrums in public — before I had my own to deal with! How do you balance a child’s need to play with safety, all without incurring the wrath of the neighbours?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 andrea from the fishbowl October 24, 2006 at 2:29 pm

I say screw the neighbors. Your child’s right to fitness (within reason of course) trumps their right to a quiet afternoon nap.
Mind, if your boys were playing rugby at midnight, that would be cause to complain.
I’m all for unfettered, unstructured, outdoor play.
And road hockey? That should be a part of every Canadian kid’s childhood. Bring on the hockey nets!

2 Ingrid October 24, 2006 at 2:39 pm

We like to take a ball (basketball, baseball and bat, soccer) to the park and just play around with it.
And during daylight hours, I don’t think the noise of kids playing should be a concern. After all, adults mow the grass during this time, and as a shift worker trying to sleep I used to curse these people.

3 Rev. Dr. Mom October 24, 2006 at 3:11 pm

Banning tag? Feh!
And street hockey? I totally agree with your assessment re main street versus cul-de-sac. And if the kids aren’t allowed to play street hockey, there should be a dedicated place in EVERY neighborhood.
It’s a sad day when there are so many laws regulating when and where and how kids can play.

4 yvonne October 24, 2006 at 3:42 pm

My kids drag nets across the park to play on a less busy street. And they delight in the “CAR!” “GAME ON!” ritual that being a Canadian kid is all about. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

5 Tanya October 24, 2006 at 4:16 pm

Ridiculous. We live on a crescent street that only gets local traffic and on any given day there are kids (young…say under 12) skateboarding, biking, playing hockey…whatever. And thankfully no-one else on the street has a problem with it.
Its when certain kids come and start trying to set fire to the trash cans in our park and purposely tangling the swing chains that I get pissed. As for road hockey, play on!

6 Batman October 24, 2006 at 4:23 pm

I’m all for street hockey and other neighbourhood sports or activities (including basketball in the driveway). I used to play street hockey every day as a kid growing up in Ottawa and I’m surprised you have a by-law now banning the practice. If kids are stifled or restricted from playing unorganized neighbourhood sports, I think it could affect their social development. It also makes me wonder what these kids are supposed to be doing. In Winnipeg, we have a bit of a problem with kids stealing cars. I would personally love to hear that they stopped stealing cars and started playing road hockey. Perhaps that should be part of their sentence if and when they’re caught.

7 BeachMama October 24, 2006 at 4:31 pm

Laws are broken on my street every single day!! And we encourage it. Every other house on our street has kids and every other kid plays street hockey. Nobody on this street cares and so far the kids have all been respectful to the cars.
Our old street was even quieter, but we had some kids that wouldn’t move for the cars… that really ticked me off.
I remember that law coming in to effect and remember thinking that I would rather kids played street hockey than basketball anyday. Just another way to encourage kids to play inside!

8 norontmom October 24, 2006 at 6:57 pm

I’m sure I came from the Capital of Road Hockey! During the fall, winter and spring there we always hockey nets set up on the street. We lived on a dead end, so there was little traffic, but outside you would often hear “CAR” and the nets would be moved, the play stopped and a wave to the motorist and then it was game on again. I can’t imagine not letting them play street hockey…It’s part of growing up Canadian!

9 Her Bad Mother October 24, 2006 at 8:25 pm

We’re not at the raod hockey/tag/street play stage yet, but my fast response is this – bullshitto any law that bans kids from playing in cul-de-sacs. Busy-ish streets, or wherever there is a real safety issue, fine, I can see that. But anybody who is bothered by the sound of kids playing during daylight hours is a tard who deserves a smack.

10 APL October 24, 2006 at 10:23 pm

I lived in a townhouse community growing up, and all the kids in my court played in the court parking lot. (It was kind of like a big, L-shaped cul de sac.) We learned to be watchful of cars (all of which were either leaving parking spaces or about to park, so they were slow-moving). We learned to be respectful of our neighbors. But we also were out there all day in the summers, playing soccer or tag or kickball. It was great fun, and to my knowledge no one ever complained.
I hate today’s anti-physical activity bent. Schools are getting rid of not just tag, but recess entirely. Just what my overweight country (USA, not Canada) needs. Sheesh!

11 Sayre October 25, 2006 at 2:06 am

I’m in the US too, and was horrified to learn that PE is now one day a week for half an hour. What???? I had an hour everyday when I was growing up. I might have hated every minute of it, but I was in pretty good shape as a child. I now have to enroll my son in classes outside of school time and ride bikes with him to make sure he gets his exercise. I’m not really complaining about that, but mine is a high energy kid (and aren’t they all?). He has a hard time sitting still in class without exercise. So we also walk to school every morning.

12 The Fryman October 25, 2006 at 5:01 am

OK – so I am the last to comment, but I am sure I took the longest to get off the floor when DGirl used herself and athletic in a sentence, espacially with the word most thrown in there! Smelling salts were, in fact, required…
As for road hockey, it scares me the rate cars fly around on any street. Where we end up seeing ‘street’ hockey here (Vancouver) is on the tennis courts and school blacktops. No rules against it that I know of, and a bit safer too. We also have lanes behind most of the houses, which make for decent ‘rinks’ and limited traffic.
Don’t worry about the boys – keep giving them/forcing them into situations for athletics and they will take advantage.

13 Jennifer October 25, 2006 at 7:25 am

I think you have it right — this should be settled between neighbors. I wonder if there wasn’t something larger going on.
I have never seen a single person play hockey : ) but we have kids in the street all the time in my neighborhood. I agree with what one of your earlier commenters said — kids are much quieter than blowers and lawn mowers & all the other maintenance equipment out there!
Playing in the street does cause some tension, it’s true. One neighbor drives way too fast, given that kids are often there; I want to stone his car. Another neighbor is too liberal I think and her kids won’t get out of the way of cars… But, you know, we all try to live together as best we can. It helps if you really know your neighbors, more than just “hi” in passing.

14 Sharon October 25, 2006 at 1:16 pm

Street Hockey Rules…Of course I do it out in the back 40. BUT not everyone has my back yard.
As for basket ball. That’s were the parents should set a time limit for playing after dark. Of course sometimes those KIDS playing ball are not KIDS. and that’s just inconsiderate.

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