“Mom, you have to play with us. Mom, we’re playing Structure Tag. You have to be ‘It’.”
It was middday Saturday. We’d had a long week and a long Friday night, with yet another soccer practice getting us home at 8 p.m. Showers, dinner, late bedtime, late morning. Thank god for the weekend.
But Saturday morning involved some errands and scurrying around and then heading half an hour east to a soccer game. We arrived early.
People, it is possible I needed just a few minutes to myself. So when the children went off to the playground without me, I enjoyed a few minutes alone. Then they came back to get me to play Structure Tag.
The rules: Everyone has to be on the climbing structure. The person who is “it” has to count to 10 before starting. That person has to be on the structure when they begin the count. You have to stay on the structure; if you fall off, you are “it” and also you have to restart where you left off (like, hanging off the side of the slide).
Yes, we are absolutely not using the climbing structures as intended, and other kids start imitating sometimes, which can be problematic when a toddler tries to hang off the edge of a bridge.
And yes, I don’t let my kids play this when there are toddlers/smaller kids on the structure, because the little kids can get scared if a big kid runs past.
I didn’t want to play today. I wanted to have some downtime, to chill out and read Facebook and The New York Times and review a few recipes I’m making this weekend.
I didn’t want to play. But I did. We got another kid to join us. A girl was near us, watching. She hung upside down. She climbed outside the structure. She climbed up and stood on the roof of the highest part. She did a breathtaking balance on the handrails of the bridge.
I think she wanted us to ask her to join. She didn’t ask to join, and I thought my kids would hate it if I invited her.
I should have. I’m sorry, Rockstar Upside-Down Climber Kid, I should have invited you to join us.
Then, once the older kid joined his soccer team to warm up, I talked the younger boy into doing an obstacle course. First I led, then he did. He led a very complicated course, continually looking back to make sure I was following exactly.
I followed exactly. It made him happy.
It was time to head over to watch the game. We retrieved our stuff from the playground bench. I heard a tired-looking man say, “No, I can stay on the ground.”
“No, you have to be up on the building! You can’t be it if you’re on the ground–you have to be up here!”
It was the Upside-Down Girl, with what looked to be her younger brother and her dad. Her father tried to insist he could be on the ground. She tried to explain our rules to him.
She’d heard every word, and she was trying to explain it to him.
“It’s called ‘Structure Tag,’ and you do have to be up on the structure to play,” I jumped in. “We were playing it, and your kids heard it from us. You have to be on the structure.”
The girl smiled. The man looked at me.
“And yes, I tried to get out of it, too,” I added.
He turned to his kids. “There are other kids here! Can’t you get the other kids to play with you?”
Me to him: “Ha, I tried that too. They don’t want to play with other kids. They want to play with you. You’re going to have to play.”
As we walked out of the playground, the dad climbed onto the structure to be “it.”
And that, dear parents, is Structure Tag. Play. It sucks, and you might not fit through the slide entry, and your feet might be on the ground for the hand-over-hand. But they want your attention, and if you only have them half the week, well, you give your attention, even if you need some downtime. And you’re going to lose at Structure Tag unless some hapless uncoordinated other kid joins the game (sorry, Jack from today, but it’s true).
That other dad looked resigned. But his kids looked happy as hell.