Janet Sheridan: Seems odd to me
In first-grade, at every recess, I played chase: a simple game in which participants randomly chased one another, running and grabbing, huffing and puffing, shrieking and laughing. If a player chanced to catch another, they simply chased each other again or dashed off in pursuit of someone else. Catching didn’t matter. The fun was in the chase.
During second-grade recess, when not throwing gravel at ne’er-do-wells who hogged the swings or dangling helplessly halfway across the monkey bars, we played a more sophisticated game of chase. Girls chased boys exclusively while the clueless boys chased anybody.
In the upper grades, we played team games, hotly debating the rules, or performed stunts on steep slides, back-breaking teeter-totters, and spinning merry-go-rounds before being rushed to the nurse’s office. In junior high, recess was a 40-minute lunch break. My friends and I bought Twinkies, 7-Up, and candy bars at the corner market with money our parents gave us for the school’s hot lunch. Then, for entertainment, we watched fights between eighth-grade hooligans or stalked our oblivious boyfriends.
Though I enjoyed the freedom of recess, I was a bit appalled when I read that adults have begun paying entrance fees to re-enact the recess games of their childhood. According to an August 20 online newsletter by Axios, a park in Seattle recently attracted 1000 men and women to an adult recess, and another in Greensboro, North Carolina, drew 600. The attendees, unafraid of twisted knees, strained muscles, or looking foolish, played tetherball, hopscotch, kickball, soft ball, four square, Twister, and various versions of dodgeball.
More prudent adults choose library-sponsored recesses where they play with Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Silly Putty and Play-Doh without fear of being shushed. When either type of recess ends, Axios noted, many participants head to a bar — which certainly beats heading back to arithmetic.
Burdened with an aging body, I tried to think of games I could play that would be less dangerous than bounce-house dodgeball but more active than Mr. Potato Head.
Jump rope? Nope. My knees work, and I’d like to keep them that way.
Hide and go seek? I used to hate finding places to hide; and I have no reason to think I’d like it any better now.
Mother May I? Another no. Who wants to play a game where you spend all your time asking permission?
For me, an enjoyable senior-adult recess would be a break from combing my hair, wearing my hearing aids, responding to my technology, making the bed, cleaning the refrigerator, and flossing. Better yet, I’d welcome a rest from my medical appointments and the rhetoric of politics. However, enjoying either is as likely as remembering the lengthy telephone message I just took for Joel.
Shortly after learning about the adult-recess craze, I read another online article by noted child psychologist, Peter Gray, who thinks children of today are “more depressed than they were during the Great Depression and more anxious than they were at the height of the Cold War.”
He blamed this sad state of affairs on the limited opportunities children have to decide for themselves what, where, with whom and how long they’ll play. Instead, their time outside of school is much like their time in school.
“Kids need recess,” Dr. Gray wrote. “They need longer lunches. They need free play, family time, meal time. They need less homework and fewer tests…”
“Hmm,” I thought. “Something’s wrong with our world when adults pay to play games they enjoyed as children, and children have no time to play.”
Unfortunately, it’s a conundrum I can’t solve. So I think I’ll go ask Joel if he’d like to play a game of chase, though I doubt he will; he’s irritated because I forgot to tell him about the important telephone message I took for him that I can’t remember.