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Janice Wells: Kids’ play — it’s a different world


When I bought the land in Heart’s Content, how perfect it was for grandchildren never entered my mind. With a big level mown area pretty much enclosed by the house, a graveyard, a wild grassy area and a very shallow rocky beach, it is tailor made for relaxing on the deck and keeping an eye on the kids at the same time.

Remember a few weeks ago I wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek column about good grannies and bad grannies? I can now add another layer to the depth of that column.

Good grannies don’t make good mothers to their grandchildren … on vacation … for a week. And that, in my humble, but experienced, grandmotherly opinion is a wonderful thing.

Today’s mothers are much more vigilant about outdoor time than our mothers were, and I understand that; it’s a different world. And of course, the ages of the children make a difference. And where you are makes a difference. Only two families in our neighbourhood in Corner Brook in the fifties had cars and those who did drove slowly in residential areas because they knew there might be children running across the street. And we had sidewalks, but we had the fear of God put in us about the road anyway.

You can’t just let children run around in cities or anywhere on roads with today’s drivers. You can’t let children play on banks near deep water. You really can’t let them play anywhere where you can’t see them unless you put down your glass of wine and walk 30 feet or more.

We had three pairs of eyes for four boys who pretty much stuck together. The boys were aged four to nine; the age of the eyes is irrelevant. They still work. And nine-year-old Nate made a wonderful camp counsellor to the younger ones.

You can’t just let children run around in cities or anywhere on roads with today’s drivers. You can’t let children play on banks near deep water. You really can’t let them play anywhere where you can’t see them unless you put down your glass of wine and walk 30 feet or more.

They did not run us ragged; we let them run themselves ragged and there were no arguments about bedtime. We let them do or not do things their mothers would have been fussing about. With no bathtub and my little fellow not about to try the shower, I washed him down. I feel no compulsion to tell his mother how frequently or infrequently. She doesn’t need to know. They were almost permanently wet anyway from water pistols, salt water and fresh water and the dirt was healthy dirt. So there.

We had our share of interventions and time outs, scrapes, scratches, bruises and tears, but that was just the grannies. Ha ha.

A big shout-out has to be given to the Winterton Wooden Boat Museum’s boat building program for children ages five to 12. They let our almost-five-year-olds participate. The little ones weren’t very interested in the guided tour of various types of wooden boats and traditional life, but a very clever scavenger hunt brought them back to things they had heard about from our excellent guide.

Then it was off to the shed for two types of actual boat building. With the boat builder’s guidance, the children work together with the tools, including an electric hand drill to build a 10-foot dory to scale. With the expertise and patience of the boat builder I didn’t have one “oh my God” moment of worry.

But that’s not all. Then they got to assemble pre-cut sailboats and take them down to sail in a nearby land wash, stopping on the way to learn about an actual working stage.

Finally, they helped move a small dory and were given Junior Boat Builder certificates.

It took a little over three hours and all for $25. Best bargain I ever had. The only change I would suggest is that they extend the age limit to include younger teenagers, even though, as we were proof of, they aren’t too strict about that.

The program is offered Thursdays and Sundays during July and August, so there’s still time for even a one-day excursion, but you should phone ahead.

Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. She can be reached at janicew@nf.sympatico.ca.

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