Sunday, March 1, 2009

Why my childhood was not up to code: Part 2

My first installment of Why My Childhood Was Not Up To Code dealt with our family car, which would not have met any current safety standards whatsoever. Just coming to a gentle stop at a stop sign would have catapulted the crash dummies through the windshield. We avoided injury mostly because we were small, flexible and packed in so tightly there wasn't much room for catapulting.

Anyway, installment # 2 will deal with one of the leading causes of childhood injuries back in the Good Ol' Days ... gym class.

Some children have fond memories of merrily hopping, skipping, bouncing balls and learning new skills in gym class. Not me. I have dark nightmares and sudden flashbacks.

I remember a terrifying game called "Dodge Ball" that involved the big mean boys standing in a circle, hurtling huge hard rubber balls at the small spindly children like me and knocking us to the ground. I would have been happy to stay on the ground, but no - the rules required me to get back up, pick up the ball that was twice as big as me, stagger around for a few seconds, then wrench my whole body to one side in an attempt to throw it at the big mean boys, who were now standing in the middle of the circle laughing hysterically.

Then there was the hopelessly confusing game called "Basketball" where the rules went on and on. You couldn't stand still for more than 3 seconds or that blasted whistle would blow, and once you started moving you had to dribble the ball at the same time, so I was forever trying to count to 3 while searching desperately for someone to throw the ball to so it would not become apparent that I had no idea how to dribble and in the end I would just throw the ball straight up in the air and that whistle would shriek and I would pray that the teacher wouldn't make me stand outside the line and throw the ball in because there was counting involved with that too and honest to God who needs that kind of pressure when you're only 8 years old?

Things got worse in high school. Those memories are deeply repressed. If I close my eyes and force myself to remember, I get fuzzy images of school-issued green bathing suits, mandatory showers, and softballs whizzing past my head.These may or may not be real memories. I try not to think about it.

Today, gym classes are much more child-friendly. The rules are designed to encourage self-esteem and keep the school's insurance costs as low as possible. Balls may not be thrown. Children may not be knocked over. Teams, whistles and keeping score are out. Here in Texas, children are not even allowed to play tag during recess. Seriously.

Where were these rules when I needed them?

1 comment:

Fran Hill said...

Great stories. I got revenge on my Games teacher by wheeling the rack of hockey sticks under the showers so that the next time she turned the water on they got soaked and warped. I never confessed. Have now, though, if you're reading, Beryl the Peril.

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