Living on the Edge…

When I was a kid trampolines didn’t have nets. And somehow we survived. In order to

sustain a summer without broken bones you had to make sure you didn’t backflip onto the

lawn onto your head. When you poured dishwashing liquid onto the mat and turned the

hose on, you had to be especially careful. There was no containment. Small bodies could

easily go hurtling into space. Or a tree. But falling off wasn’t the only risk imposed by this

much loved jumping devise. The springs provided a kind of medieval torture zone that

snapped at small fingers and uncovered genitals. You didn’t jump in the nude. Or if you

did you only did it once. We not only lived through unnetted flight, we also lived through

exposed springs. Every kid from my generation experienced at least one genital

crunching landing that saw the soft flesh of the inner thigh pinched into one of the coils.

Every family had at least one kid trapped in the springs by their balls. The middle of the

trampoline offered bouncing bliss. The edge offered broken bones and mangled flesh. It

taught us that within most incredibly joyful pleasurable experiences, there is an element of

danger. That was how you learnt to set limits. It wasn’t just learning to jump on a springy

surface, any moron can do that, you had to learn the areas where it was safe and you

developed the ability for self care. You had to be aware that jumping near an edge leads

to pain. If you ignored this basic tenet of self regulating pretty soon fun turns into hospital

and a long wait in the emergency department. When I was a kid this knowledge acted as

a kind of ‘net’. It protected us, not with an actual barrier but with consequences.  This made

kids jump in the middle. They even took turns because too many kids on the tramp meant

the skinniest little bugger was going to be catapulted into the neighbour’s garden. (Unless

of course you were doing it on purpose.) At a backyard party at my place the other day I

watched a small child approach our backyard trampoline. We don’t have a net. Children

must set their own boundaries on my play equipment. Small child scrambles up onto

trampoline. Small child has one jump on the very edge of the equipment allowing its body

to fly freely in the air. It is a child without limits. It is clear as the child is airborne that it is

of the netted generation. It has never had to redirect its flight before and so flies off onto

it’s back. Small child lies winded in shock. Poor thing was bawling but it was ok. Small

thing just learnt an important life lesson. The edge exists. You don’t want to fall off the

edge. The net exists so parents can zip children into trampoline enclosure and drink

chardonnay on the lawn knowing the won’t have to drink drive to the hospital in the next

hour. I worry about this generation of kids growing up with no sense of an edge. How do

you set your own limits if they’re artificially imposed? For the long term safety of all our

children we need to remove the nets from trampolines. Sure there will be longer queues

of children with broken arms at ED but maybe less of them will fall to their death from

balconies at schoolies. Hardly anyone in my generation fell off balconies. We either

remove the nets off trampolines, or we start netting high rise balconies. This is how we

protect people from danger, we assume they’re stupid and should not be allowed to take

calculated risks, so we remove the risk. It seems counter intuitive to me, surely if you

teach people that risky behaviour isn’t risky, then you’ve just created even more stupid

people. Stupid people who think that to reduce risk its the world that should change and

not them. Nets are for volleyball or tennis not trampolines or beaches. Take the nets

away and learn to manage risk.