A Victory for hard balls and gentle persuasion…


Those of you who follow me on Twitter may recall, as I’m sure you will because you are good, attention-paying, fruit-eating people, that at the start of this school year I had a bit of a Twitter-rant about a new rule at my son’s school.
(For those of you reading this who don’t follow me on Twitter, may I just say….ahem, hello, over here! Come and joint the party. I have cake, and balloons, and occasionally a man who puts white socks into a box, turns a handle and they come out red. I KNOW!)

 Twittername: @lizfraser1 Go on. You know you want to…

Anyway, the new school rule. To cut a short story even shorter, it basically said that

hard footballs (known as ‘footballs,’ to you and me) are now banned at school.
Instead, new soft footballs (known as ‘footballs for wusses’ to you, me and every child) would be introduced.

The reason? If you get hit by a hard ball, it could hurt you.

I’ll pause for a moment, shall I, while you a) pick your jaw up off the floor b) hit something and c) shout a few meaty Anglo Saxon words that your darling children probably shouldn’t hear, lest it hurts their ears and educates them properly.

Yes, there it was: the old ‘being hit by a real football might hurt you’ line, to be filed alongside ‘If you pour this boiling hot cup of coffee all over your naked genitals it might burn you’, ‘If you cross this road wearing a blindfold you might get run over by a bus’ and ‘If you never use your brain you might die of stupidity.’

Of COURSE it will hurt if you’re whacked on the head by a ‘real’ football. If also hurts if you’re tackled in rugby, if you fall over on the ice rink and if the girl you have a heart-mashing crush on pulls your pants down in the Year 2 corridor and laughs at your six-year-old willy. (Or so I’ve been told. Very basic ‘putting myself in his shoes’ tells me that it’s probably true.)

These things HURT. Life, in case you hadn’t noticed yet, HURTS. A lot. And that’s before you have to wait in the Argos returns queue in January, listen to Jedward or go on holiday with your in-laws.

If we try to ban everything that might just possibly cause a child some mild discomfort we’ll raise a generation of children who want to play football for England. (Oooh. Too low? Sorry. I mean play rugby for England……..I’ll get my coat, shall I?)

The real irony, of course, is that the children themselves don’t want to be raised in a wishy-washy, beige sea of wobbly, wet, pain-free blancmange either. They want the real, muddy, sweaty, bloody, go-on-and-sock-it-to-me experiences that life offers.

And, quite rightly, they think we adults are bloody idiots when we introduce idiotic rules like this.

(The other irony is that the much safer, ‘soft footballs’ caused no end of injuries for the children, because if you try to kick them they squash underneath you like a sumo wrestler’s belly, and you end up not only twisting your ankle but also taking the skin off half of your body. Genius.)

So, what’s a boy to do when he comes home, seething, about the banning of proper footballs?

Kick his Lego fire station over?
Plan a revolution?
Cry because he just broke his Lego fire station?

After my 8-year-old son had done all of above, and hit his sister, and called the head master a name I shan’t repeat here, because BloodyPenisHead isn’t very polite – and sounds like a very nasty disease – we had a little chat.
I suggested that, in life, if you want change, there are various ways that you can make change happen, without calling people names or hitting them (assuming that calling them names and hitting them didn’t work.) If there’s something you feel strongly about, and you have enough other people who do too, you can try, tactfully and diplomatically, to make change happen.

Power to the people, and all that. Although obviously if all of this tact and diplomacy fails there are stink bombs and itching powder, whose power shouldn’t be overlooked.

So off he went, to Make Change Happen.

After two weeks of camping outside the Head’s office drinking Starbucks Babyccinos and arguing over the protest’s finances (talk was of Jasmine in Year 1 spending £1.50 on a Hello Kitty rubber, and Johnny in Reception nicking a whole fiver to buy Match Attacks for the unelected but very vocal Games Committee) we had a rethink.

I suggested a petition.

Once we’d established that I wasn’t suggesting he build a mini Berlin Wall down the middle of the playground (“That’s a partition, darling..”) but a piece of paper with some signatures on it, my son disappeared into his room for long enough for any mother to wonder if he’s been spending his pocket money Nuts magazine again, and then emerged triumphantly with a ink all over his face, and a beautiful, perfectly worded, horribly spelled petition.

By the end of the next day, it looked like this:


Democracy at work...

Two weeks later (and after an emergency crash course in grammar and spelling…) my son came home from school with bruised legs, a huge smile and a letter from the Head:

After careful consideration the teachers have decided to reverse the ‘no hard footballs’ rule, with immediate effect. RESULT!!

Let’s just hope they’ve also put more plasters and Savlon in the First Aid Kit.
They’re gonna need it. And a good thing too.

“Life is about plasters, not blancmange.” Plato. Probably.


7 thoughts on “A Victory for hard balls and gentle persuasion…

  1. Liz Weston aka @TheLizWeston

    Hurrah for common sense and the power of protest!!!

    There’s so much these days, that we have to tell our children is out of their control, not their job to manage/be in charge of and deny them – so this is a brilliant opportunity to give our future managers, prime ministers and dare I say it, young people who one day will be parents themselves, the opportunity to make a difference!!!

    We’ve got a climbing frame in E’s playground. He’s not allowed on it before or after school. I think it’s an insurance thing, but I’m not sure of the exact reason why. If I had 50p for every time we had to tell our boys to not go on it, and ignored the fact that some other children do, before school, I’d be a wealthy woman. It drives me nuts, because I’m happy to take responsibility for him before and after school, but we have to follow the rules. And I don’t want him to be in trouble at school for not doing what they ask.

    The power of petitions gives me hope for the future 🙂

    1. lizfraser Post author

      Hi Liz.
      Ohhh, the climbing frame rule is in our school too, and drives me (and every other parent I know) equally mad. If my son falls off, I’ll deal with it and take the responsibility – the END! Legislation, legislation, legislation. I feel a petition coming on… 😉

  2. lizfraser Post author

    From @mikeymagnetic
    @lizfraser1 Result! Here’s to the sting of cheap football on cold leg, the scrape of knee on tarmac and endless arguments about the score.

  3. Frankie

    This is a great story! Good for him! Children need to be able to take risks, have real experiences and learn how to treat others with care- it’s unhelpful to flippantly ban things…


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