What turns bright, well-mannered, and socially extroverted Kindergarten and First Grade children into a swarm of BAT…SHIT…CRAZY maniacs? The answer is simple: “Recess!”
Early last week, Justin asked if I would come to his school for lunch. GWE explained that it was Teacher Appreciation Day and they were looking for parent volunteers to watch the children while the teachers had a private, special lunch. I didn’t have a conflict in my calendar, so I told Justin I would be there.
It was only supposed to be one hour – 12:30pm to 1:30pm. How hard could that be???
I arrived at the school just as the teachers were dropping the children off in the play area. Justin’s teacher waived goodbye…and then quickly disappeared. Three moms and one dad (me) were left to watch over the (what felt like 300-ish, but probably only 50) Kindergarten and First Grade students. I witnessed a formerly docile playground turn into “The Lord of the Flies” meets “Planet of the Apes.” (“Get your hands off of me you damned, dirty children!!!“) These kids were fueled by the sugar rush of the lunches they just ate and the pure adrenaline of recognizing their own freedom, in addition to knowing that there was not a single teacher in sight. If it’s been awhile since you’ve witnessed playground politics and the social hierarchies among children under 10 years old – it’s truly eye-opening!
I was exposed to many things over the course of an hour…
1) I discovered that my son has two girlfriends. They both know about each other and they are not jealous of one another. Sometimes they all play together and sometimes it’s one on one. I actually saw the girls negotiate with each other as to who got Justin and when. (To “Future Justin” – I don’t know how you managed to do this, but I hope you are able to keep this skill! It will be useful in college.)
2) “Name-calling” hurts, at any age. Several children asked me for my “real” name. (To them, I’m “Justin’s Daddy.”) Justin quickly answered on my behalf with, “His name is ‘Super Diaper Head!'” And, then the children began to chant, “You’re name is Super Diaper Head…You’re name is Super Diaper Head!” I stood strong as long as I could. Finally, I cracked…”My name is Jason.” It then became a challenge among the children – “Who would be the first to call a fellow student’s parent by their real name?” One little girl took the challenge. She walked right up to me and said, “Hi Jason!” as if we were old friends. Her friends were in awe.
3) Justin’s best male friend might be an athletic genius. He asked me if I would play “Hand Ball” with another group of children (including Justin.) I told him that I would be happy to, but I didn’t remember the rules. He would have to remind me. This child began to instruct me and his friends on the elaborate rules of a new game he had created that can only be described as “WallBallFallCrawlMaulBrawl, YA’LL!” I shit you not…this game was so interesting that I may have to steal the idea and create my own league for adults. It was THAT good!
4) In an open playground, where nothing is hidden, children will still find a place to hide…thereby scaring the shit out of the adult who is supposed to be supervising them. Justin and some of his friends decided to play “Hide and Seek.” I was unaware that the rules to this game have been updated since I last played. If you are the one hiding, you are now allowed to move locations as long as you are not seen. I did not know this. As I began to rule out certain hiding spots while looking for a little girl, I began to panic because there were not that many places left for her to hide. As it turns out, she “relocated” to a place I had already checked. To lose sight of your own child is scary. To lose sight of someone else’s child will send you into a panic mode like no other. I think she got bored waiting for me to find her because she finally jumped up from behind the trash can and screamed “I’M OVER HERE!!!!” Needless to say, she won!
There were a few hundred more things that I witnessed over the span of that one hour. Somehow, time seemed to slow down. What was supposed to be an hour, felt like a week. Many of the things I witnessed could be written off as “Child’s Play” and some of the things I witnessed will haunt me forever. Regardless, these children are our future and their teachers aren’t making nearly enough money!!!