Wednesday, 24 March 2010

But Where Do The Children Play?

Will you roll on roads over fresh green grass?
For your lorry loads, pumping petrol gas.
And you make them long,
And you make them tough.
But they just go on and on, and it seems that you can't get off.

I know we've come a long way
We're changing day to day
But tell me
Where do the children play?

Where Do the Children Play - Cat Stevens


This song started running through my head when I heard about this story on CBC radio this morning. A man was being fined for playing street hockey. Ah geez, not again.

One line in particular caught my attention: "Most municipalities have a bylaw that prohibits playing sports on the city streets." To which I thought, well where can we play then?

We purchased our current home in July of 2000. As it was a brand new home right from a builder, none of the yards had yet been fenced in. A fence was not a priority for us, we were planning our wedding, which is an expensive enough endeavour added on to the new responsibilities of a mortgage. But sure enough, within a year, the neighbours went ahead and started talking fences. Bylaws state (and common sense dictates) that if all your neighbours want a fence, well you want one to, and you have to pay your share. So by the end of 2001, we had a fence. I've hated the damn thing ever since.

I grew up without fences; heck my parent's yard is still unfenced. In hindsight it probably annoyed a few neighbours, but growing up, everyone's backyard was our playground. Our imaginations roamed as freely as we did. So given that background, fences are not something I accept as a natural suburban structure.

At the time our fence went up, we were certain that we didn't want kids, and that we would only be here for 5 years max before moving on.

10 years and 2 kids later we're still here.....

One thing a fenced yard really does, is it constrains play. Maybe if we had a 200' X 100' size lot, it would be irrelevant, but in typical suburbia, your yard is not that large. Ours certainly ain't. So we spend a lot of time out front, on the road. Kicking a ball, playing catch and definitely playing hockey.

If we couldn't play on the road, we'd have nowhere to play. Thanks to the genious city planners and home developers, parks aren't within easy walking distance for 3 and 5 year olds from our street. Hell, they aren't easy walking distance for us farts pushing 40. The one park that was planned for our development got turned into houses instead.

Over the last ten years, my neighbourhood changed from a bunch of homes owned by DINKS to homes owned by families with children. Those children play on the street, as do ours. Last spring a spontaneous game of 'football' sprang up. It was myself and three other fathers against something like 30 kids. Well maybe not that many, but it sure felt that way. The endzones were each end of the street. We had a blast running around, kids chasing us as a mob, throwing the ball, play tackling, picking up whatever kid had the football and running with them as if they were the football, etc. We took up the whole damned road, the sidewalks and a few front yards as well. Probably annoyed a few of the drivers that came our way, but hey, our part of the neighbourhood was out there playing together.

Just this weekend there were a few kids playing hockey out front, and they were short a player. They asked me to fill in to even the teams. I jumped at the opportunity. They weren't even my kids. Again we had a blast.

These spontaneous events are building community, trust, friendships and relationships not to mention all the great exercise we're getting. Take our streets away from us, and we'll all be isolated families inside our homes playing video games because that's all that will be left to us.

So, my hats off to the city of Kingston. They have the right idea. As to Cambridge? I have no idea what the bylaws are. But if it ever becomes an issue, I'll be fighting that one all the way.

1 comment:

Ken Breadner said...

There are several instances where NHL players have stepped in and paid the legal fees of people charged under these bylaws. I think they're terribly misguided. I get it, we don't want kids run over by cars...which is why they yell "CAR!" and then "GAME ON!".
It's not as if these games spring up on King Street, you know?