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This morning Fiona and I were watching GMA over breakfast when a story came on about towns banning sledding due to fears about liability. She immediately said “I was hurt sledding!”
Four or five years ago we were in Buffalo and I was at lunch with some friends. I got a call from my mom, who was at the ER with Fiona. She’d gotten hit by another sledder at the bottom of a hill. She was fine, mostly. She had a black eye and what turned out to be a very small fracture of her nose.
There were no lasting effects, other than Fiona being wary of sledding for a winter or two.
So I asked her, “Since you got hurt sledding, do you think you should have stopped sledding forever?” This is the girl who was crushed because there was no snow in Buffalo when we were there last week. “Of course not!” She laughed at the thought.
And I continued: “OK, well, do you think other kids should stop sledding because some kids sometimes get hurt sledding, and very occasionally even die?”
She thought for a moment and said “Well no, because you can get hurt doing almost anything. You just have to be careful.”
There you go. At ten she understands risk vs. reward and personal responsibility, even if she wouldn’t know those terms.
But of course, the personal responsibility horse left the barn a long time ago. And towns are afraid of having to pay (they’re not afraid of the children getting hurt, I’m guessing, they only care when it lands on their doorstop in the form of a lawsuit).
Of course you can get hurt sledding. Just like you can get hurt biking, or rollerblading, or riding a skate board. But many public skate parks simply post signs saying that you’re skating at your own risk, and that if you get hurt that’s on you, not the town or city.
Wouldn’t that make more sense for sledding areas than simply banning sledding? I realize that a skate park is different than a sledding hill. It’s a more defined area and is more likely to have a fence with an entrance, so you have to pass the signage and you know when you’re inside the covered area.
But in a country with over a million lawyers, surely one of them would be able to work around this and find a solution that’s better than a no sledding rule.
I’m a pretty risk-averse person and a constant worrier, and even I acknowledge that a life worth living includes some risk. It has to. Otherwise we would just wrap our kids in bubble wrap and never leave our couches.
As the great philosopher Dory said, “You can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo”
Indeed. Maybe the officials in those towns need to watch more cartoons and try to remember what it was like to be a kid.