News was released tonight in St. Thomas, Ontario that City Council announced the creation of two new outdoor fitness activities. The St. Thomas Times-Journal wrote on its Facebook page, “The Optimist Club wants to partner with the city to install a fitness trail at Optimist Park. Cost would be $150,000 to $200,000 depending on the number of fitness stations.
In addition, the Tarry family will proceed with a 20-station activity centre in Pinafore Park and around Lake Margaret to celebrate the family’s 60th anniversary in business. The centre is expected to be in operation this summer.”
You could see the community response coming a mile away. Of course there were people excited about the announcement and felt that the new centres were positive additions to the existing parks and recreation available. But there were a series of typical rants that included, “And yet nothing for our kids,” “No skatepark yet,” and “yet nothing decently accessible… kind of like any services to help low income parents…everything’s being put at the outskirts of town.”
Really? Nothing for your kids? And St. Thomas isn’t big enough for the outskirts of town to be that far away. And there are a number of neighbourhood playgrounds and school playgrounds throughout the city, as well as the Talbot Teen Centre. St. Thomas features two large and well kept family friendly areas as well – Waterworks Park in the north with trails, ponds, families of geese, a splash pad, event pavilions, a waterfall at the dam, and fishing in the pond, and also Pinafore Park in the south where the Fire Muster and Canada Day festivities take place – and thousands of people manage to find their way there. It has summer concerts, the winter Festival of Lights, hiking and biking trails, places for fishing, and gardens to take in. Both parks are easily accessible, especially Pinafore Park (Waterworks has a steep incline that can be difficult for some, but is accessible by vehicle). There is a community party in the Lockes-Morrison area. There are plenty of sports activities with many offering subsidies. The library offers programs and family nights throughout the year. If you want to be involved in something, there is most assuredly a way.
But the bigger question that comes to my mind is this: As people fight back over increasing government control and influence in their lives, how did it then become the city’s responsibility to entertain (parent) their children? What did these parents do as children themselves? Did people wait on them hand and foot and offer up a wide array of exciting and enticing recreational opportunities? I hope not. I suspect that they found activities to keep them active.
If the vocal opponents are any representation of the greater population, it sounds like at least part of parenting has become a civic responsibility in the eyes of a few.
I remember growing up in the country, mostly anyways. We had adventures in the woods. We trapped salamanders and frogs. We trekked through the swamp – okay, maybe that wasn’t safe. We had adventures in our made up worlds in the barn. We built forts. We rode our bikes. We camped in our back yards. We had camp fires with our family and friends. We helped our parents fix cars. We sold dew worms. Some of my friends were avid readers (the thought of reading and writing turned me off completely in childhood). We found ways to keep ourselves occupied and enjoyed our life as children. Our parents weren’t at our beck and call for rides to the mall. We didn’t demand movie nights. We didn’t lobby the government for skate parks and programs. Going for an evening walk was what we did.
Even as teens we found ways to keep ourselves occupied and most of that was without getting into trouble. It really is possible. There were no skate parks. But we played tennis and baseball at the community centre. I helped with yard work. I cut the lawn for people in the neighbourhood and made some money on my own. I knew my parents weren’t ATMs, so I looked for work and found work to be done.
When I read the comments that followed the original Times-Journal post, I immediately thought of the article below. I had read it before, and saw it again this week. How fitting for the times. I guess some advice is, in fact, timeless.
Everyone has a story. I hope that children, youth, and teens help shape their own story instead of one being fed to them by the perception of entitlement that is so easily thrown around
“It’s too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday. Someday is now and that somebody is you,” (originally printed in 1959).