Parents today all do the same thing… tell your kids to wear helmets when riding a bike… don’t play outside without an adult… make sure you have a pad for every part of the body whenever they play a sport. It’s sad and is this really necessary?

Today’s kids need to go outside… play in the street (please, don’t write letters to me), and get scuffed up. It’s part of building character. Think about when you were a kid and the games you played and the stuff you did outside. I’m positive you were just like me and my friends. On Saturdays, we would go outside in the morning, maybe come home for lunch, go back out, and then come home for dinner. In the summer time, we’d be out all day and into the night. The entire time Mom really didn’t know where we were – no cell phones or GPS. But, moms did have the “mom-vine”. When one mom saw the kids running the entire neighborhood knew where they were going – must have been mental telepathy engrained in mothers! We would go down to the creek to trap rodents, try to shoot pheasants with a bow and arrow – yeah, good luck, or just take a hike through the woods. We got a few bumps and bruises but we survived and it built character.

We would play games that would probably be illegal today. There was “Kill the Man with the Ball”. Basically, you threw a football in the air and whoever caught it ran for their lives and the others tried to tackle him until he dropped the ball, or was knocked out.No helmet, no pads. How about “Buck, Buck?” One team had a guy stand straight – he was the post, then the other 4 or 5 guys would bend over in a line hugging the post. The other team, one at a time, would run and jump onto the first team trying to collapse the line. Now I know why my back hurts today!

Remember “Dodge ball?” Unlike the movie with comedian Ben Stiller, where two teams faced each other, our version was one team split up in two and in between was the other team who had the ball thrown at them… again, no helmets. We also played “Touch Football,” in the street. Guys going for the long pass may have beat out the defender but before he caught the pass… wham! he slammed into a parked car… ouch. Don’t forget “Street Hockey”. You were into the game then that dreaded word was yelled out, “CAR!” and you had to stop, pick-up the net and move it to the side until the car passed.

There were some foolhardy games we played that had no names. We lived near a cul-de-sac so we placed one kid in the middle with a football and the rest would ride their bikes in a circle while the kid in middle would throw the football trying to knock you off the bike. Were we insane?

My friends and I also invented a game at our high school, which I was told was played for years after we graduated – “Knee Football”. In the wrestling room, which had a fully padded floor, we formed two teams and played football. There was passing, tackling, and running, again, with no pads – all on our knees. Football coach told us he saw some of us running faster on our knees than his players on their feet. How many will need knee surgery when they get older?

Of course, there were the traditional games such as Wall Ball, Step Ball, and Wire Ball. Stick Ball and Half Ball, which was like Stick Ball but using one-half of a pimple ball. We played Kick the Can and Hide and Seek. We also did a lot with firecrackers and M80s, but that’s not good to discuss here!

And don’t forget, when we played organized sports, like Little League Baseball, we wore real metal cleats, not these plastic things the kids wear today. When it started lighting, we had to take them off, for obvious reasons. Second basemen had to really jump out of the way when the runner was sliding in. There were more than just a few bruised shins… but, again, it built character.

Walking through a creek, climbing a tree to get to your tree fort (which we built), playing games with no protective gear, or spending an entire day outside with no supervision… looking back, we all survived. There were some bumps and scraps, but isn’t that part of growing up?

You fell off the bike, you got back on. Today, you fall off a bike, paramedics arrive, police are questioning everyone, MRI and CAT scans performed at the hospital costing tens of thousands of dollars, parents blame everyone else except the clumsiness of the kid, and immediately call their attorneys, and in the end… the kid comes home with just a Band-Aid!

The moral of the story… watch your kids, but let them be kids. Let them build character.

Like my daughter, Dee, says – Bouya Grand Ma!

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