People tend to forget that play is serious. -David Hockney
My son had his birthday party this weekend, the “kids” party, where he got to invite a bunch of friends over to spend the night. He’s turning 12 in a couple of days. (Wow, those years went by quickly.) He asked for a Hunger Games party, since he’s read the books and seen the movie… so we set up a Hunger Games party!
Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold. -Joseph Chilton
Our yard and our neighbors yard were the battle arena. There were about 14 kids, all using foam swords, lots of Nerf dart-guns, and foam balls to throw at each other. They each wore 3 “life ribbons” (Flag Football style), and you lost a life by getting a ribbon pulled off or by getting hit with a weapon. Of course, hidden around the yard were lots of fun things, like…
Also hidden, among the helpful treasures, were traps, like “poison berries” that made you lose a life ribbon if you opened the box.
Almost all creativity involves purposeful play. -Abraham Maslow
They had a blast, and played 2 games well into the night! Walking around as the “GamesMaster” was fun, because I got to watch all the action, maybe be helpful or mischievous now and then, and take some fun pictures:
The remnants of an epic battle…note the weapons, supply bag, and discarded Life Ribbons. Really hits home, no?
And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. -Khalil Gibran
As the night wore on, I watched different kids respond differently. Some were teaming up, some stayed loners. Some played with honor and fairness, some bent the rules whenever they could.
We grow neither better nor worse as we get old, but more like ourselves. -May Lamberton Becker
The thing that was the most striking was how much fun they had, while also taking it so seriously – strategizing, plotting, but also pulling details from the books and movie into the game and weaving storylines, calling each other by character names. They created drama, but disputes were largely solved by the group.
And all the while, I watched my son – who I’m pretty sure was just born yesterday – as he enjoyed his day. He was loving being the center of attention, but also gracious to his friends. He moved through the “cliques” and made sure everyone was having fun, and no one was being left out… I was really proud of him, and amazed at how grown he’s become. Sometimes I think I’m too hard on him, or I’m too strict, or I’m not patient if he’s doing things in a way that I wouldn’t do… seeing him at his party reminded me that he’s a young man now. How *I* would do something doesn’t have to be the way he would do it. The Dad part of me has to keep hoping that by example, suggestion, and hopefully more discussion than discipline, I can do my job and help him grow into an adult of good character… and seeing him be a kid of good character was pretty great.
Too many people grow up. That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. They don’t remember what it’s like to be 12 years old. They patronize, they treat children as inferiors. Well I won’t do that. -Walt Disney
So tonight, when I got home from work, I found him sleeping in my bed. Sometimes he’ll crawl into bed with Jeanne if I’m not home. As I looked at him sleeping there, I realized that soon I wouldn’t be picking him up anymore, soon he’ll be too big or won’t want to be lifted… and that’s a loss that I know will come soon, but one that I’m just not ready for. As I gently picked him up to carry to his room, his arms wrapped around my neck and he nestled his head on my shoulder.
And, sure, I could’ve just set him on his bed right away – but tonight, I just couldn’t bear to do it. Tonight, I just listened to him breathe, and I held him until my arms ached. This moment, this could be the last time I get the chance to do that. This event horizon that we’re on right now, we stand on a thin line and I can look to one side and see his childhood, and just a step away in the other direction is his adult life, and I know that step has to be taken, but…
I thrill at what the future holds for my kids… but I will miss moments like carrying them to bed more than I’m capable of expressing.
How pleasant it is for a father to sit at his child’s board. It is like an aged man reclining under the shadow of an oak which he has planted. -Voltaire
Really beautiful entry Tony. Thank you for sharing.
Fun pictures, thanks for sharing.
Thanks so much – thanks for reading!
So beautifully written…..tears in my eyes
Aw, thank you Beth!
Beautiful, Tony, for both its vision of play and parenting. I love it. FYI – around here, the kids (and adults) play in a similar way, but with dagohir shields and weapons that they build. Pretty cool stuff.
Thank you Laura! Oh, man – do you guys do that stuff?! I’d love to see a tournament battle with those dagorhir weapons! 🙂