My granddaughter was frolicking in the playground at the Burger King on Pontiac Avenue, much like her own daddy used to frolic when he was her age. I sat in “my” seat in the corner against the wall where a full view of the room was available. While she giggled and played with her many new friends inside the play structure, a bright yellow hopscotch game on the floor caught my eye. Ah, hopscotch…a favorite game from my childhood. Even though we traveled a lot, I could always draw the game on the ground and friends would come running to join in. My favorite trick to the game was to choose a tiny stone so it would be less likely to fall on the line than a larger stone. (If your stone landed on a line in one of the squares, one had to begin over.) My vision was really good back then and my miniscule stones often won the day for me.
We also used to play tag. I am proud to hold the role of neighborhood winner, but only because I had long, scrawny legs and was a few years older than most of the other children in our neighborhood. We would play until we were too winded to play anymore, often sweat beading on our brows, faces red from exertion.
Playing jump rope was also so much fun! If there was only one friend available, we would tie the end of the jump rope to the mailbox and one person would swing the other end while the other one jumped. We would often count how many jumps we made without tripping up, but with laughing so much, it was hard to keep track.
Sometimes hide and seek was the game of the day, but this game was boring because I would have to sit still until they found me. Often they didn’t because of my ingenious hiding places, under the porch behind the slatted, wooden boards, or on a branch at the top of a tree.
Who could forget the game “kick the can,” which was a much more interesting twist on hide and seek. One would hide and when the “coast was clear,” try to run up to kick the can, (usually located on a hill,) before being tagged “out”. My elongated legs and cunning strategy skills were an advantage, and often children did not want to play this game with me because of my winning streak.
These games were enriching. I learned social skills; inserting myself into a group of children, sometimes strangers to me, and mingling, making new friends. I learned how to be a winner, (“Oh, gosh, it was nothing.”) and a good loser, (“Way to go, new friend!”) Strategic skills were needed, as were scientific concepts, (“If Randy can run X fast for a distance of 25 feet, I have to run even faster to kick the can.”) I learned that there are rules that have to be followed, accommodations that have to be made. Basically, I learned the rules of life.
So it is that I look at the new generation of children who spend most of their time indoors, solitary, playing video games or watching television. They may take it seriously and feel anger if they lose at game. (Many a remote controller has been thrown against the TV when a particularly difficult challenge of a video game has ended in a loss.) There is fierce competition if they play video games each other, with limited “good loser” behavior. In fact, they often don’t know how to communicate unless through technology, seriously limiting their social skills. Most importantly, with much less exercise, children are becoming more overweight.
My fear for this generation is that with less social proficiency they may be ill prepared to enter the work force, to be the leaders of tomorrow. (They will, however, fit right in with cubicle workers whose only interaction is with a computer and customer they may be talking to on the phone.) Being overweight can lead to serious life long health difficulties, something a child watching tv and munching on potato chips or ice cream cannot foresee.
Whatever happened to kick the can?