Thursday, July 26, 2012

Outdoors play, risks, rewards and parents

We were returning from roller blading yesterday when we saw a child crying in the playground. I was surprised because we have known this child for a very long time and she is not one to cry easily.

Amid a lot of sniffling, the girl tells me that her parents had puller her out of roller blading class before the holidays with promises that they would put her back after they returned form vacation. But they refused to put her back in the class. Naturally, the child was feeling bad because all her friends attended the class, the class was just next to the playground, and all her friends had their own roller blades while she didnt.

Further investigations revealed that one or both ofd her parents were afraid that she may injure herself in the process of roller blading and would therefore need to go to the hospital.

Now, we know that accidents happen while roller blading. We also know that Anjali and I fall down very regularly while rolling and we have not gotten so much as a bruise.

Further, we know that 8000 children in America die every year because LCD tvs fall on their heads . We also know that the accidents that cause the most serious injuries donot happen when the kids are doing gymnastics or playing in the playground. No. Accidents seem to defy some of the fundamental laws of nature in that the safer a parent would think that a place is for play (like the bed) the more likely it is for an accident to happen there.

Husband wanted me to speak to the child's mother and see if I could convince her otherwise. I could. But her mother was not in the playground yesterday. But Anjali's roller blades were. So we came home, washed up, changed and brought the roller blades back to the playground so that this child could try them again.

We returned home late and the girls had to forego their Harry Potter story. Anjali was somewhat dissappointed by this, but I reminded her that I was very proud of her for sharing her skates and that we were giving up our story in exchange for a kind deed. I was surprised that she took it very plesantly.

Some of my colleagues would say that there is no such thing as altruism. Maybe there is, and the warm snuggly feeling is just one that we put in front of our kids. Is the reward mechanism of altruism intrinsic or learnt?

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