Beware the menace of the trees

I can’t live anywhere where the trees aren’t of voting age. It’s preferable that they could have possibly voted for Lincoln. I do love a good shade tree.

Hugger

Granted, I’m not a card carrying tree hugger. I once took the life of a meddling walnut that got in the way of my swimming pool. I’m selfish with God’s gifts this way. Still, I’ve never really had an issue with trees. I have always understood that trees are our friends. They provide shade, cool forests and parks. They provide paper, books, home furnishings, heat. They provide home and shelter and pose a grave danger to children. Wait. What?

When trees attack?

Apparently trees are the latest scourge of childhood to face being banned in some schools. Their shade, beauty and oxygenation properties are not enough to shield them from a reputation felled by one base accusation: They’re dangerous. You could poke an eye out kid.

Ban

Students at the Moorestown Children’s School in New Jersey have spent generations running around their bucolic campus, unaware of the leafy green menace in their midst. That is until some child care inspectors decreed that the “overgrown vegetation” (that would be trees to you and I) must be trimmed to a height of roughly seven feet off the ground. Lest a child run into, underneath or near any hanging limbs, leaves, or branches. An offshoot of those trouble making trees, tire swings have been eradicated from Fairfax County elementary schools after an inspection found that the equipment could be unsafe

“Can be unsafe” seems rather vague. Air can be unsafe. You start breathing too fast, you hyperventilate. Why chance it?

A West Virginia school district has dismantled all swing sets of any kind because of the danger of lawsuits. A recent lawsuit involved a child who broke his arm jumping off a swing like Superman. No word yet on whether the school plans to suspend the laws of physics too. For safety reasons of course.

USA Today reported that elementary schools in Wyoming and Washington banished tag at recess because it promoted chasing, touching and slapping. Yes, I believe those are the key components of tag. That’s why you run.

A South Carolina school similarly put an end to contact sports such as soccer and touch football. Why do I envision a future where my grandchildren will take part in sports conducted entirely from a seated position using hand signals and polite nodding?

Dodge ball has been out for years after some buzz kill decided that wailing a ball at your friend’s head might be considered to resemble an assault, but banning tag and trees is a newer, and troubling, development.

Banning all playground games on the idea that it “can be unsafe” is overkill. It also leads to more of the sedentary insanity that leads to restless, overweight, under challenged children. The message being “the whole world is dangerous. You best just stay on the couch, kid.”

Unsafe

Using the “may be unsafe” theory, we need to ban changing classes and any access to school hallways. Ever been the kid who dropped a notebook full of loose paper in the middle of a crowded hallway? I dropped an armful of books in a crowded hallway in 1985 and barely escaped with my life. I would have much rather risked it at dodgeball. Or taken my chances on bumping into an untrimmed tree. It couldn’t have been any riskier than bumping in to a senior year linebacker bent on getting to lunch.

On my 1970s era school playground, we had what we called “Buckeye” trees. They provided shade, leaves we re-purposed as “boats” and “dolls,” and were best known for their spiky round nut projectiles we could toss at each others feet (see “feet?” We weren’t savages. We had teachers who would call your mom if you threw it at someone’s head).

Granted, my childhood was conducted back before well-meaning troublemakers sucked the fun out of every last thing. We had a jungle gym over a hard-surface asphalt, swing-sets and played “Superman,” too. I am all for keeping children safe.

However, when it comes to overreaction in the name of protection, sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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