Posted on November 7th, 2013
he crying wasn’t unusual. Children are always crying at recess. Hurt feelings, hurt heads—you name it, they’re going to hurt it. (As a substitute, here’s the way I usually spend recess: remaining terrified for the 30 minutes I am responsible for their health and well-being, during which while they enjoy their ‘free time.’) But when a crowd gathered around one particular weeper and her opposite number—a fairly uncommon social response by a community of young peers jaded by the sight of tears—I decided to investigate in my official capacity as Recess Authority Figure.
“Why are you crying?” I asked. My words were not unkind, only succinct; I have learned that it serves you well to cut to the chase with six-year-olds.
“She tagged me and I didn’t know she was ‘It’!” the girl wailed in response to my question.
‘It’ sat on the ground stonily, her head in her hands. She seemed wearied rather than distressed by her classmate’s
“She never wants to be ‘It’,” the Girl-Who-Was-It alleged sullenly.
The crux of the conflict having thus been articulated, the crowd of onlookers turned as one to look at me.
“Maybe,” I suggested to the crying girl, unveiling my Solomon-like wisdom slowly so as to afford my listener time to consider the life-changing implication of my words, “you don’t actually like to play tag.”
She took a broken breath as I soldiered on, laying my words at her feet deliberately.
”Tag,” I continued, “might not be your game.”
“But sometimes I do!” the crying girl shouted back at all of us, wounded at the very notion of it. “Sometimes I do like to be ‘It’!”
I looked significantly around at the collection of listening faces before me—tag-players all, for this is how they had come to a form a circle around the two girls to whom I spoke. To a man, their expressions seemed to say, ‘Mmm, not so much.’
Even disassembling the moving parts of games or assignments we’re sure we detest will almost certainly show us specific tasks required for their successful completion that we love. We may adore the breathless, shrieking joy of being chased, but feel hopeless and stumbling when asked to assume the role of the pursuer. And how confusing is that?
It is the work of a lifetime, sussing out what we like from what we think we’re supposed to. No one can teaches you what you like but yourself. In this particular undertaking, we are always our very own ‘It.’∗