We’re Still Going to Move, Dammit

You’ve heard, haven’t you, about the “Let’s Move” postage stamps? They’re being destroyed instead of released because the President’s Council on Fitness objected to the “unsafe” activities the stamps show. Okay, if you hadn’t heard, or if you heard, vaguely, but didn’t read an article about it, take this cool quiz. Which 3 unsafe practices made it necessary to trash the entire run of stamps? Look below and see if you can identify 3 terrifying accidents waiting to happen:


Got them yet?

I’m going to offer up the answers in reverse order, least ridiculous first.

  • 1. The skateboarder (2nd from left in the middle row) is only wearing a helmet, no additional pads for knees or elbows.
  • 2. The child in the “swim” postage stamp (middle of bottom row) is doing a cannonball.
  • 3. The balancing child (to the cannonballer’s left) is doing a headstand without the benefit of a helmet.

Oh, how I wish that I were kidding. Here’s one news story to assure you that I am not.

By these standards, I can expect a visit from CPS at any moment.

1. Pad-free boarding

  • CURRENT SITUATION: M regularly rides (is that the right verb?) her Ripstik without pads or helmet. Or shoes.
  • HISTORIC/GENETIC PRECEDENT: M’s Uncle John was just quoted in a newspaper talking about his latest artistic inspiration: building homemade ramps, which he and his friends would set up in the road for skateboard stunts. Yes, some injuries did ensue.
  • SAFETY ASSESSMENT: Expected consequences limited to abrasions due to slow speeds. Except when she accidentally rolls into the street. Which mostly doesn’t happen.

2. Cannonballing

  • CURRENT SITUATION: M, J, and Cute W all fond of cannonballs. All four of us like to do flips at the town pool. I lament the rule against inward dives. Because those are fun and not too hard!
  • HISTORIC/GENETIC PRECEDENT: Have I mentioned Cute W was on the diving team in college? I tell you: the man is scrumptious!
  • SAFETY ASSESSMENT: While I do occasionally fear a Greg-Louganis-in-Seoul-style smack with flips, I don’t anticipate consequences beyond excessive splashing with a cannonball. Although, if it’s one of those nights that we order pizza, and the pizza gets splashed. . . well, then, someone might actually get hurt.

3. Headstanding without a helmet

  • CURRENT SITUATION: J likes headstands. The whole family has been having handstand contests in the front yard lately. Yesterday J started doing back handsprings on the lawn for the first time (she wasn’t allowed to them off-mat when this was a new skill).
  • HISTORIC/GENETIC PRECEDENT: At J’s age, my favorite pastime was doing as many back handsprings in a row as I could, and, not to brag or anything, but I did the best headstand in last night’s yoga class at the Schenectady JCC (incidentally, two children and several adults were also defying death by attempting headstands without helmets).
  • SAFETY ASSESSMENT: I am a little concerned that J will break her neck doing handsprings, but headstands do not scare me. And also, how would you do the helmet? Would it be kind of like a toe shoe for dancing en pointe? Interesting design problem . . . .

It’s just discouraging, isn’t it?

Now I don’t really expect that the stamps would have made kids more active, but I love the spirit of play that these evoke. And it just feels like this is another example of how our 21st century America is working hard to make childhood as joyless as possible. No risks, no free play, no opportunities to explore the world on their own without a grown-up. Too many schedules and too much homework. And anyone with a child attending public school these days knows that we’re exchanging joy and curiosity for anxiety and rigidness there, too.

When I was a kid, I used to pack my little sister into a red wagon with me and ride it down a hill so steep that it scares the crap out of me in retrospect. I used to like to climb trees most when it was rainy, because the slick tree limbs made it more challenging. I’d stand on top of my jungle gym and sing “This Old Man.” I’d explore the next door nature preserve, walking along the fallen-tree “balance beams” and taking off socks and shoes to wade in the frigid, snow-clogged stream on the first warm day of early spring. I wish that my kids had a huge hill, and a big climbing tree, and a jungle gym, and a nature preserve next door. They don’t.

But if the girls want to do crazy circus stunts on their tree swing, or ride their bikes and make tree-climbing tours around the neighborhood, or jump from rock to rock in a fast-running stream during a hike, you know what I’m going to say, right? “Let’s move!”






  1. Claire

    Are you kidding me? A helmet for doing headstands? I was pretty cautious physically as a kid, and I would call myself a fairly cautious mother, but by these standards I would be considered a daredevil.

  2. @Carol Jones, thank you! I’ll put you on the witness list when they take me to family court.
    @Ken B, good point! I think it would be better if no one swam, ever. Except what if someone fell into water? Perhaps we should avoid water but wear life jackets just in case.
    @Claire, yeah, it’s really hard to even conceptualize the helmet thing. As an experienced headstander, I think that if I were to go for protective gear, it might be a neck brace first.

  3. meghan

    Injuries are part of being a kid, test the limits, and learn from the pain after! What next, are we going to put life jackets on kids in the bath?

  4. Cheri

    This is horrible. Seriously. Yesterday, upon seeing a giant rock in Central Park, my children ran joyously to climb and take risks all over the place. On my way to the top of it, I heard one mom say, while dragging her son away from the enticing rock, “Do you understand that one slip and that’s it, you’re done?” It was sad. Really sad.

  5. @meghan, I remember saying something like, I’d much rather have my kid suffer a broken bone than learn that life is too scary to try.
    @Cheri, ugh, it makes me crazy when people were like that. I remember at the City Museum in St. Louis a mom was refusing to let her kid walk on these stepping stones because she’d get wet. Why not just say, if you get wet, you’re going to have to suck it up? Especially since I didn’t see a single kid actually fall in. Glad that they had fun climbing those big ol’ rocks.

  6. Big Sister

    No seat belts in the car. No helmets for our bikes. Moms that smoked and drank during pregnancy. Barely any sunscreen and definitely no antioxidants or probiotics unless it was in the morning TANG and we didn’t know it. It is a wonder we are alive.

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