For the majority of this summer, it has felt as though our time is always at a deficit. There are not enough hours in a week to fit in everything that NEEDS to be done, let alone all the WANTS.
With Fall approaching and with it the onslaught of football & soccer practices and games, I knew time would REALLY be at a premium. As I perused the calendar, I knew this Sunday might be it until sometime in November.
So today was the day. We planned it about a week ago. You might think that perhaps we were caught up with Olympic fever and wanted our own version of that…but sadly no. We chose to emulate the battle-to-the-death of children in a whacked out arena. That’s the competition we were seeking to recreate. And that’s what we did...well, kind of.
I told each boy that he could have a couple friends over and they would play their own (clearly watered-down) version of The Hunger Games. They gave me their “guest list” and I sent out emails to the parents. And then I sent out more emails. If this was going to be The Hunger Games, 6 children would never do. This needed to be a little bit bigger. We ended up with 10 boys (4 pairs of brothers and 2 “singles”) for the Games.
My only rules were that: 1) they had to stay away from the ponds, and 2) they had to stay together in groups of at least two. Rule #2 was enacted in case someone was bleeding profusely, had a limb distorted in an unnatural way, or had a bone protruding from their body; that way, if he didn’t pass out at the sight of the wound, the partner could go fetch some help.
Within 10 minutes of going outside, the first batch of boys were back inside to get some water and a band-aid. This was really amusing to me because before the guests came over, my 11yo had packed a backpack for each team complete with water bottles and band-aids. I personally think they just wanted to come inside, which was fine. They covered up the cut, got drinks in plastic Solo cups (yes, as I’m sure you guessed, I did have the Sharpie out for them to mark their cups; we can’t just be throwing cups away willy-nilly!), and they were back outside to battle.
As I understood it, I believe they divided into alliances numbering anywhere from 2 to 6 on a side. They had various and sundry weapons – mostly of the Nerf variety: swords, axes, and the like. But no guns. For a few brief moments at the beginning, there was a lively discussion on whether or not to allow the Nerf guns because guns were not used in The “actual” Hunger Games…to be truly authentic (my words, not theirs, but it was in essence what they were saying) they shouldn’t have guns. Authenticity reigned supreme and no guns were permitted.
The poor dog, meanwhile, was in full-yap mode. Constantly yap, yap, yapping at all these potential people who could pet him; and yet they were streaming past him at full sprint, entirely unaware of his existence. The louder the yaps, the less attention they paid to him. We finally did let the crestfallen dog back into the house, where he stood by the door at full attention, awaiting their return. And yapping.
After a couple hours in the woods and on the field, we capped off the games with a feast. Ok, not really a “feast” but a snack. Like any good host, I loaded all the boys up with some sugar and salt. There’s nothing like some chocolate cake, Chex Mix and red Kool-aid for a group of hot and sweaty boys. The snack that satisfies.
Although I’m not certain that my kitchen will ever be the same.
Following their snack and a brief respite, they were back at it, only this time dividing into teams with a “blind draw”; names were chosen out of a hat to pick teams. As I explained it to them, “This is not about hurting anyone’s feelings or anyone being picked last. It’s just about having fun and trying to kill one another.”
Other than dividing into two equal teams, and that guns were allowed, how the War Games were any different from The Hunger Games was a little nebulous. But the participants didn’t seem to care. It was different to them. Whatever. Are you all having fun? Is anyone being left out? Is anyone injured? Fantastic…have at it.
The time came to an end altogether too soon for the boys. There was a bit of trouble rounding some up from the woods when the parents arrived, but alas, all good things must come to an end. All in all, I think they had a good time. They had come from various “friend circles” and didn’t all know each other before stepping onto the playing field. But in the end, I think they made fast friendships and they all showed good sportsmanship. At least from my perspective. This is purely conjecture; I base my speculation on the simple fact that I did not have to break up any fights, even between brothers (my two specifically)…it’s so nice when they get to the age in which they can handle those things among themselves and parents do not have to intercede. They don’t call on parents unless there is blood or serious injury.
For those of you who have read The Hunger Games trilogy, I do not have any quotes nearly as memorable as, “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!” to leave with you, but I will give you with smidge from The Parker Hunger Games… oh so indicative of 9-13yo boys:
“My name is (blank…I won’t incriminate the speaker of this, lest he be embarrassed)! Hear me fart!”
“Say hello to my little friend” (clearly lifted from Scarface, but still funny coming out of the mouth of a 9yo brandishing a Nerf gun)
And my favorite of the day came from a true a visionary with words of wisdom beyond his years: “Guys, no using guns while you are eating cake.”