One of the delightful things about having a houseful of children is that we almost always have enough people to play games. When I was growing up, it was much more difficult to put together a good game with the resources at hand:
Me: “Hey, Mark, how ’bout we go play a game of tag?”
Mark: “Who are we playing with?”
Me: “I figure you … and me … and Posie … ?”
Mark: “Beat it, kid, I’m gonna draw instead.”
As it turned out, Mark was actually drawing up operational orders for armored-cavalry attacks on defenseless villages, a valuable skill which stood him in good stead in later years. Posie, though she was often willing, was too little to be a credible opponent in any game, six years younger than me and nine years junior to Mark. I usually had to find other ways to amuse myself with her. For the record, there are no witnesses to her wild claim that I put her in the clothes-dryer … although if anyone could use 40 minutes on “medium permanent press,” it would be her. (I love you, Poz!)
“In my day,” I tell the children, “Kids had to make do with ghost runners, ghost batters, ghost umpires, and even ghost spectators. I once played a whole game of baseball with just myself and three aluminum cans!”
“Right, Dad,” sneers my son, Weasel. “And I’ll bet you walked seven miles uphill both ways through blinding snow to get to the ballfield, too!”
I was hurt. I’m pretty sure that tale featured a hailstorm, not snow at all! Those kids just don’t pay attention anymore, when I tell my stories. But enough about me. Really.
This week Joshua invented a new game, which he christened “Never Ending Dodge Ball”. Organized dodgeball is one of his favorite games, and he greatly enjoys playing variants of the game at the gym in church or at the YMCA. As often happens, his creative brain came up with a version that can be played in our own backyard.
The rules to his never-ending variant are fairly simple:
Anyone who can find a nerf ball can throw it at any other player who is ‘alive’.
You must actually throw the ball at another player, you can’t tag them with it.
If you are hit by a ball (before it hits the ground) and don’t catch it, you’re ‘dead’.
When you are ‘dead’, you have to lie down on the ground (unless you are fussy about bugs, in which case you can squat).
If you have a ball and you are ‘killed’, you must hold the ball up so that anyone who is ‘alive’ can take it from your hand.
As soon as someone is ‘killed’ after you, you are restored to ‘life’ again.
If you happen to still have a ball when you are made ‘alive’, you are free to use it immediately.
If someone is newly ‘alive’, they must be allowed five seconds to get to their feet and run away.
You may never handle more than one ball at a time.
Hits in the head don’t count.
Since there are two, three and sometimes four balls in play, the game can become quite interesting, with players chasing one another only to be hit in the back by someone they weren’t watching. Sarah adds a special wrinkle to the game, since she has a special little ball that only she can pick up (she is little, and couldn’t get the other nerf balls before her siblings swooped them away).
The game has several cheerful advantages:
- It can be played in a fairly small space, and boundaries don’t really matter.
- Players are rarely ‘dead’ for very long, which is nice for younger players, low on patience.
- The game seems equally fun for players from 5 to 41.
- It can be played for a short or long time (or until enough players get hurt and go inside, crying).
It certainly doesn’t hurt that my children are very kind to one another. They are careful not to run roughshod over the little ones, and they stick scrupulously to the rules. They good-naturedly allow the younger kids to catch them, and they throw the ball gently to avoid injury (well, most of the time). I am always very proud whenever I think about how considerate and loving they are to each other — surely, we are greatly blessed by the redemptive work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of these five rascals.
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. — John 13:35
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. — Ephesians 4:2
Altogether, the kids probably played this game for more than an hour, today. David went off to bed with a bounce in his step:
David: “Josh, it sure was fun playing with you.”
Joshua: “I had fun, too.”
David: “Play tomorrow?”
Project 365, Day 209