Friday, June 10, 2011

"You Keep On Using That Word..."

The playground. Tag. Wallball. Four Square. Follow the Leader. Fun and games.

What the hell happened?

What happened to us? Why did we, as we grew older and became 'Adults', become so much less civilized?
There is a guy I work with who likes to call people and things 'childish' when he thinks they are silly, overblown, or just not right. Anyone he sees who he thinks is acting poorly, or acting out, he tells them to 'stop being such a child!'


I was watching Handsome playing in the schoolyard after school today, and I noticed some things. The way the kids behave, both solo and in a group, suddenly seemed surprising to me. Were they more 'Adult' than I expected? No. They were better than that. They were being childish, and compared to more adult ways, I was glad for it.
I'll try to explain through the game handsome was playing.

This is a game that Handsome loves and I completely fail to comprehend, though I've had him explain it time and again. Those of you who have ever received an explanation from a 6, 7, or 8 year old will understand; I'm lucky he's not still explaining it! As far as I can tell, there is a group of kids, a ball, and a wall. The wall doesn't have to be a wall, it can be a simple curb, and the game works fine. Wallball without the wall. Go figure. Someone throws the ball at the wall and everyone else tries to catch the ball when it bounces back. As far as I can tell, catching the ball does nothing for you, and they rotate through throwers in no discernible order. I don't even think there are teams! Or points. Or anything. And all the kids love this game.

This game that no grown up would play.

The kids are self-regulatory, and if someone is breaking the rules (for there are rules; I just can't comprehend them since I am an Adult), or just being a real jerk, then the group handles it. The rules are explained (and I still don't understand 'em) or the behavior pointed out, and the offender can either abide by the wishes of the group or leave. Simple.
Oh, sure, there is a teacher around as a court of last resort, but if you watch the group it seldom gets to that point. Sometimes the offender is pushed out by the group, and sometimes he leaves on his own. Most times, however, the conflict is settled and the game moves on, all the kids being equal. Except the owner of the ball. He seems to be a little more equal.
And even if someone is booted from the game for a while, some time goes by and the other kids allow them back in. I've seen it
Could Adults play this game?

Not as it is. There would have to be clearly defined rules, and positions, and a point system so that they could keep track of just how badly they had crushed their opponents. And they would use those rules to complain, and hack at each other, and prove that, no matter what the group said, they were right because this is what it says in the rules!

And then, to reinforce these rigidly defined rules they would have to have a league, with its own handbook, and uniforms for the teams, and a seasonal Standing Record (so that they could show everyone just how badly they had crushed their opponents), and the first thing they could do when there was a rules infraction or unsportsmanlike conduct would be to wave that handbook in people's faces, stabbing pages with stiff fingers and shouting through stiff faces "See right here! It says so right here! I deserve that point, and he needs to be punished! He needs a yellow card, or a red card, or some kind of card! Something to show in the permanent record just how wrong he was, and how wronged I was! It says so right there!"

And then someone can point to a different page, or a new ruling, or an old precedent, and they can refute, and debate, and argue. And the situation can exacerbate, and grow, and there can be a split, with factions, or just one man against the rest, but both sides of the issue can be so consumed with being right, being correct, being on the winning side that they forget they were really there to play a game.
Eventually there will be confrontations, within the league as well as without, and some of the outside confrontations could lead to restraining orders, whether deserved or not, and court orders, and a league walk-out if not a shut-down...

So how, may I ask, is this better than the way children do things? Wouldn't it be better if, like the kids, we could just keep focused on the main thing that brought us there in the first place: having fun playing a game?

So thanks, guy at work. I'll stick with being 'childish' any day of the week. And every time I hear him make that complaint about someone now, I'll be hearing one of my favorite quotes from "The Princess Bride" in my head:

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think that it means."

I honestly don't think it does.

Sorry, not very funny thoughts this evening, just what occurred to me as I sat and watched them play.  Maybe I'll have a giggle or two tomorrow...

But hey! I added a Poll! Woot Woot!

Talk to you later!

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