the power of rule-making

Last year, on one particularly cold winter day, I got tired of telling the Bee to hurry up on the way to school, and I invented a game called “Who’s in Front?”. The game mostly consists of me growling, “I’m gonna get in front!” while the Bee giggles and runs ahead of me. When we turn the corner to the street her school is on, she likes to hide behind various trees. Under no circumstances am I to look for her. I am, however, allowed to say, “where’s the Bee? I’ve lost her. Oh no!” (This last is a rule of the Bee’s creation.)

Then she comes running up, giggling, and hides all over again.

It’s great fun for her, and it means I don’t have to spend a half an hour walking the four blocks to school in the freezing cold. We’ve played it on and off during the fall, but somehow, it’s less compelling on a warm day.

Yesterday, the Bee invented her own walk-to-school game–“don’t step on any leaves.” At first, she told me I was allowed to step on small leaves, because my feet are so much bigger than hers (jeez, thanks for pointing that out, btw). Today the rules changed, and I had to jump over the smallest leaf too. I made a point of asking for several clarifications–are acorns okay? what about sticks?–because I know that she likes to make up rules.

It got me thinking about all those games in childhood that we play, just to have the power of rule-making. Kids spend so much of their lives listening to the rules of their parents, the rules of school–is getting to make up the rules for a game with an adult that much more fun?

What games did you make up when you were a kid? How many elaborate rule variations were there? Did you just make up games with other kids, or did your parents let you make up rules for them, too?


November 18, 2005. thoughtful parenting. 8 comments.