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Monday, February 7, 2011

Playtime!

I can’t believe that I’ve never seen this before. Maybe it’s new (though I doubt it) or maybe my timing has been bad (more likely) or maybe I’m a little clueless (most likely of all). I saw the schoolyard kids playing a game when I dropped my son off after lunch, and it really opened my eyes.
For most of my adult life I’d thought we knew how to play hard as kids. We really threw down, I believed. Kids were thrown happily down snowhills three metres high in the name of King of the Hill. We scrambled up trees so high that we began to suffer the effects of altitude hypoxia. Dog-piles could involve every child for three townships, creating the equivalent of seventeen G’s of pressure on the sucker at the bottom. Clusters of us would watch as the opposing side hurled steel-tipped lawn darts in great arcs to come slicing down into the ground at approximately the speed of sound. We would measure our skill at swinging by the number of kids we could cleanly clear by leaping off at the swing’s apex. Pellet guns, wrestling matches, dunking (what is now referred to so fondly as “waterboarding”), potato guns, slingshots, bows and arrows, firecrackers, and pocket knives, the list goes on and on. Virtually every one of our daily activities has been deemed unsafe in the modern world, and no parent I know would let their child roam the neighbourhood armed to the teeth with a child’s arsenal as we were.
So what were these new-aged children doing? At first I thought it was Red Rover. There were two lines of kids facing each other a distance apart, and one at a time children were hurling themselves at the opposing line, just as we used to do. But no one was holding hands. So how were they measuring victory?
They weren’t simply trying to break through the line, as we did with Red Rover. No, success or failure was determined by whether the chosen kid could land a vicious and high-speed flying kick! Each one would come ripping towards the opposing side and then launch themselves into some semblance of an aerial assault, ninja-style. Many of these little psychos got high enough to plant heels against chests. If the attack hit, both attacker and defender went down in a heap of tiny limbs. If it missed, the would-be martial artist would crash down to the icy snow, bouncing along like a skipped stone.
I watched for about ten minutes. Everyone was laughing. No one got angry. There were no injuries (other than perhaps internal; ruptured spleens and the like) and certainly no awareness that injury was even possible.
It really brought me back, witnessing an entire horde of children completing ignoring their own safety just to have a good time. Way to go, kids! The spirit of youth lives on!

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