On a recent excursion along Nova Scotia’s South Shore we stopped for a leisurely play at Crescent Beach. The kids were drawn to a large outcropping of rocks rising a couple of metres above sea level at its peak. The rock surface was uneven, fissured, pocked with holes and in some places slippery. Like billy goats, Noah and Nellie scrabbled about in search of footholds trying to maintain their balance as they explored the rock’s features and their own climbing abilities.
More On the Rocks photos from Crecent Beach here
Now if this immoveable force of natural beauty were to be transposed to a playground in Canada or the US there is no doubt in my mind that it would not pass a safety inspection. The transgressions against code would be legion. It would be deemed too risky. There was risk at play on the rocks and as parents we were aware of the potential dangers. In fact, the risk made the play all that much sweeter for the kids. Note – during the time they played, there was only one request for a rescue mission.
Meanwhile, in New York City, 11-year-old Ashima Shiraishi is a real climbing sensation. She got her start in Central Park on Rat Rock. I came across her story through Diana Kimball’s submission to The Last Great Thing (submission changes daily and there is no archive) via news.me.
I watched the video posted on the NY Times site that accompanies the excellent article by Julie Bosman. It’s electric. Now Ashima is light years beyond the funning that our kids were doing at Crescent Beach. But I think the difference is one of degree. Ashima, Noah and Nellie are engaged in play, pushing boundaries and understanding risk. In the end these are some of the key attributes and skills we want our kids to hold dear and bring with them into adulthood.
In keeping with the spirit of The Last Great Thing folks who inspired this post, I’ll share this.
Last night after supper, my 4 1/2 year old daughter Nellie-Rose and I went out for a solo mission. Older brother and younger sister stayed at home with maman. It’s not often that just the two of us get to go on these little trips. En route to purchase a new lawn mower and pick up a few groceries, Nellie-Rose talked non-stop – questions, stories, more questions, statements and professions of love. It was great just to be able to focus on her. Then she said the last great thing I’ve heard:
if i was playing in some puddles i will be as happy as can be and if you were playing in some puddles with me you can be as happy as can be too
I think of this as a pretty foolproof outlook for the two of us. I feel fortunate that there is lots of playing left ahead of me and that I’ve got a good guide to help me along the way.