Sledding is just not my thing. In fact, any sort of activity that involves me propelling at high speeds down a hard-packed snowy/icy surface with little or no control is not my thing. Sure, when I was a kid I loved sledding. But a big skiing accident in high school really put me off the whole downhill thing.
Ray’s always been the parent to take the kids over to our local golf course to sled. I’ve stayed home to enjoy some rare quiet time, or to hang out with the child(ren) not yet old enough to join the fun. This year, though, I decided to get over myself and take the kids after school one day a couple of weeks ago. Frankly, I was a little shocked by how steep the popular hill was, and how fast sleds went. Being the scaredy-cat that I am, I had no interest in giving it a try, but, after her first run was so terrifying that she cried on the walk back up the hill, Ellie begged me take her down. So I did. And I was right. The ride was really fast and really scary.
Last weekend we all went. This time, the snow was even icier. Other kids had formed jumps that propelled sledders into the air like little cannonballs. Most kids who went down wiped out, laughed, did it again. That day it was Joanna who asked me to ride with her. It started off badly — we turned sideways and I couldn’t right the sled. We toppled. She split her lip, I jammed my thumb. Later, it was Cooper who wiped out, with a friend. Fortunately, neither one was hurt in any serious way.
But it all made me wonder — why the HECK aren’t these kids wearing helmets?
We parents today love our helments. We teach our kids to wear them while biking, riding scooters, roller skating, skateboarding. Helmets are like car seats — we really can’t imagine our kids without them. They’ve even become an accepted — required — accessory for downhill skiing these days. But for sledding? It doesn’t seem so.
That day, out of the dozens of kids hurtling down that icy hill — with their parents watching – fewer than six were wearing helmets, mine included. I wondered why, and did a very limited (though informative) survey of some parents I know. Most say they do make their kids protect their noggins while sledding (I guess those weren’t the parents at the golf course when I was there), but not for small sledding (like down the backyard slope). Only one responded with an emphatic “no way!”
I heard a tragic story about a child who died while sledding. I heard tales of broken bones and stitches and near-misses. Many of us joked that we were lucky to have survived our own not-childproofed growing up, amid unbelted rides in pickup truck beds, open outlets waiting to electrocute us, gate-free stairways, unlocked toilet seats. And that’s true. But now we know better.
Or do we?
I know a helmet won’t stop one of my kids from breaking his or her neck or leg. But it could save a life.
Better safe than sorry right?
(Unsolicted sledding advice: Never go head first. Never go head first with three children stacked on your back, even though it seems like a really fun thing to do. Just my opinion.)