The End of the Innocence

I think I have finally seen the end of childhood innocence.

A story in today’s New York Times signals the end of childhood as I know it and I know my frame of reference goes back to the late 70’s and early 80’s, but this is ridiculous.

Let me give you as briefest synopsis I can. A group of kids in Greenwich Connecticut often get together to play wiffle ball, a version of baseball played with a plastic ball and bat. The kids found an abandoned lot in their neighborhood and decided to turn it into a makeshift “field of dreams”, building an infield, an outfield wall and putting up a homemade scoreboard. For their show of creativity and ingenuity, they are being attacked by residents for noise, lawyers for using town-owned land and the local government for not securing a permit before building.

OK, let me get this straight: Because they decided not to wait for their parents to create a field and a sports program and went about on their own, they are somehow breaking the law and hurting the community at large? Here we are often criticizing children for not showing their own initiative and not getting out and being active and these kids are being read to the riot act because they didn’t check with local zoning laws before building their playground?

I could go on and on, but the point of this story is just how absurd we have become that we don’t allow our children to create anything on their own. We created leagues for them, create practice schedules and drive them to their scheduled events like they are professional athletes. Heck, can anybody remember the last time their child actually got together to play with the neighborhood kids in a local sandlot without having to have it be “arranged” or “scheduled”?

It probably says less about parents and children and more about our society. Gone are the days of unorganized play, replaced by organized activities. Gone are the days where kids create worlds of fantatsies, replace by questions and concerns of an entire community when it comes to liability and safety.

This story may be taking place in Greenwich Connecticut, but I can see it happening in any community in this area … and that is sad. Wiffle ball was one of my favorite childhood games and what I would not have given to be able to turn an unused piece of local land into my own personal Fenway Park. I can only hope that the days have not passed where today’s kids can do the same.

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