Sticks are the ultimate toy of nature: a child picks up a fallen tree branch and turns it into a musical instrument, a bat, a pencil to write in the dirt, a walking staff, a sword, a wand—the possibilities are endless. Sticks are fun and should be enjoyed. Today I write out of emotion. I'm going to recount a story that happened yesterday and let it speak for itself.
Yesterday afternoon, I picked up my 7-year old from school, as per usual. After greeting me, he ran off to play with friends while I chatted with some parents. Ten minutes later, I scanned the schoolyard looking for his striped polo and red backpack. I finally spotted him at the far end of the field, sitting in the shade of a redwood grove with some buddies. I made my way over to tell him it was time to go. Then a woman approached me. I hadn't even noticed her standing a few yards off and was caught off guard when she asked if this was my son. She had a stiff air about her. She then introduced herself to me as Superintendent of the school district. I was excited, I'd never met her before. I offered a handshake and enthusiastically told her I have three children at the school, and how much they love it. It became clear this wasn't why she approached me; naïve me thought she wanted to converse. Rather, she had a report to give me:
"Your son was playing with sticks. I told him and his friends they are not allowed to play with sticks because of the danger of accidental poking. I said that if their parents are okay with sticks, they are welcome to bring the sticks home with them."
I was a bit stunned. I told her we love sticks and he's more than welcome to bring them home. As I walked off, I almost couldn't believe what had happened. My mind was filled with questions. I chose to give her the benefit of the doubt and gather more intel from my child.
What I learned was that he and his friends were stripping leaves off the sticks to make walking staffs. No sword fighting, no imaginary gun fights, nothing with poking hazards, just sitting in the shade after a long day at school, enjoying the outdoors and playing with sticks.
After a few minutes had passed, another question crossed my mind. I tracked down my son in his room playing with Legos and inquired, "Did she ask your name?" He said no as he snapped some blocks together. This is what disappoints me the most. These children were approached in a moment of innocent play and she didn't even take the time to consider the fact that they are young, sweet, precious souls under her care. Why wouldn't she want to know a bit about who they are?
I'm so upset over this encounter. And I'm thankful for sticks. Sticks just rock! (Pun intended.) Let's keep playing with sticks and teach our kids to enjoy them responsibly and imaginatively. Can I get an AMEN?