“The Sandlot” mom is spot on about free play

“The Sandlot” will always be a film dear to my heart. When the movie was released in 1993, I was 10 years old, around the same age as the rag-tag group of baseball-loving kids enjoying the freedom and joy of summer in the early 1960s.

Though I was never a boy, nor much of a baseball lover, and only knew about the 60s from my parents, every time I watched “The Sandlot,” I felt a deep sense of nostalgia for a simpler time when my biggest concern was the summer ending too fast.


Even after I was long past those childhood days, my viewing of “The Sandlot” always centered on the action of the kids. They were the heart of the movie, and the kid in me loved to share in their triumphs and defeats. The adults were little more than supporting roles, serving as background for the real action.

Then, my husband and I decided to watch the movie with our two boys.

As we were watching the film, I was struck by the scene in which Scott Smalls — the socially awkward new kid in town — is lectured by his mom on the importance of having fun, meeting new friends and, well, just being a kid.

Here are her words transcribed (credit: http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/s/sandlot-script-transcript-baseball-leary.html)

I don’t want you sitting around in here all summer fiddling with this stuff… like you did last summer and the one before.

I know you’re smart, and I’m proud of you.

I want you to get out into the fresh air and make some friends.

Run around, scrape your knees, get dirty.

Climb trees, hop fences.

Get into trouble, for crying out loud.

Not too much, but some. You have my permission.

How many mothers do you know who say something like that to their sons?

Scotty laughs at this question because, even though he is being raised in a time when “helicopter parenting” wasn’t a thing, his mom was going beyond the typical lax style of the era, and outright encouraging her son to take risks and be bold.

Scott’s mom knows giving her child permission to “get into trouble” isn’t her wanting him out of the house (though, that may be part of it), it is out of her genuine desire for him to have a fulfilling childhood.

Watching this scene now, I have to laugh at how ridiculous this dialogue would be considered today.

Here’s how I imagine the scene would play out in a remake today:

OK, Scott, you have robotics camp for the first two weeks this summer, followed by three weeks of mathematics camp.

Since we’re new here, I’ve gone ahead and scheduled five playdates with a few kids in the neighborhood. Don’t worry, I did a Google search on all their families, nobody is too weird, but just in case, I’ll wait in the car outside until I pick you up.

Oh, and since you’re interested in baseball, I managed to convince the coach to let you join the team. I know you can’t really play, but mommy, took care of you.

None of the adventures, mishaps and general shenanigans would make any sense in a modern version of this film. Even when this film was first released in the 1990s, I imagine many of the parents watching the movie waxed nostalgic about how much times have changed. Sure, the kids of my generation had a good deal more freedom than kids do today, but we were already well on our way to the trend of paranoid parenting.

We can’t go back in time and plop our kids in the middle of the 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s (not yet anyway), but we can do a bit to give them a bit of the freedom we had as children.  We can encourage them to explore on their own and talk to different kids. We can give them opportunity for unstructured play. We can scale back the schedules, embrace boredom, and, yes, let them get into a bit of trouble.

Because we all got a bit of “Sandlot mom” inside us.




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