The Spiker Games

April 12th, 2012

Katniss Everdeen sets off alone to hunt in the opening of The Hunger Games. Those establishing scenes cue her fortitude and status as a lone wolf, characteristics that will aid her on the battlefield.

That film was on my mind over spring break when I watched a hotel pool crammed with kids take on two beach balls, a revelation of gender, social order, and who we become as adults.

The most aggressive little boys were the first to nab the ownerless balls, chaotically spiking them across the pool without heed to who they would hit. Each raced to grab an errant ball and launch it on a spastic jump into the pool. They weren’t interested in strategy, just adrenaline.

Other boys who were less aggro but still game crept closer, hoping to join. They hung back, not getting too much in the aggressive boys’ way, but grabbing the ball if it landed nearby. Some joined the melée, others grouped with boys of like skill for more tactical play.

The girls were revealing: some looked like they were trying too hard to feign disinterest; others looked alert, wishing for a try but unwilling to jump into the pig pile competing for the ball.

My own daughter glanced at me, and I nodded a Go for it! She’s got a good spike, so some boys started hitting to her. She noticed shy kids whose eyes said, “I want in!” but who weren’t quick enough, so she tossed them the ball every few times she got it. That led some of the rougher boys to share the ball with her every few times they got it.

I’ll bet if we could see ourselves as children at play we would recognize the qualities that make us who we are in friendship, love, and careers.

Pull out some pictures of yourself as a child or tween and remember what you were like at play. Did you play rough? Were you the first to jump in, or did you wait to be invited? Were you a lone wolf, or a consensus builder? Most likely you’ll see a great deal of your middle aged self in the actions of that child.



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