In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (which I belong to,) there are two Sundays a year where, in lieu of our regular Sunday meetings, we have what is known as General Conference. Over the course of the weekend, a number of different sessions of the conference are held in Salt Lake City where church leaders speak to the membership of the church. These sessions are broadcast by a number of various means to members around the globe, and are translated and transcribed into over 90 different languages. Although the option is available to view the conference by satellite broadcast at the various church meetinghouses, these days most members of the church opt to view or listen to the conference by Internet from the comfort of their own homes. In my family, we tend to use the Conference Sundays as an opportunity to have our own little get-together, something that can be difficult to do at times due to the greater distances between us these days and differing meeting schedules we have on Sundays. This past Sunday, we had one of these get-togethers at my parents’ house up near Granite Falls.
As members of the family have moved away from the area for various reasons (one of my brothers moved to Provo last year to go to school at BYU, and my younger sister and brother-in-law recently moved from Pullman to California for a job after he completed a PhD at WSU) our family gatherings have gotten smaller over the years, to the point that this time around it was just me, my parents and my sister’s family. It turned out to be a surprisingly nice day for it though, with the rain mostly taking the day off and even some decent sunbreaks throughout the day. Since my parents moved into their new house about a year ago they’ve been working on getting the yard (basically a big patch of dirt when they bought the house) into shape, and one of their projects was adding a patio, complete with a fire pit that has recently been completed. Today provided a nice first opportunity to make use of it. Sounds like the makings of a nice quiet Sunday afternoon in the backyard, right? Not particularly.
My sister has four boys of various ages (the oldest one currently being 7 years old, and the youngest six months) and when it’s nice outside they’re all over the place, especially Conner and Corey, the two oldest out of the four. If I was that age and had that big yard to play in, I can’t imagine I wouldn’t be doing the same, but to be perfectly honest, I have a bit of a hard time keeping up with them these days. It’s not that I’m (too) out of shape or anything like that, mostly it’s an issue with my knee that slows me down a bit and makes it hard to do much running. Naturally, this presented a bit of a problem when they decided they wanted to play tag, and I was it. Just chasing them around the rather large yard straight-up wasn’t going to cut it, so clearly some strategy was needed. After all, even on a good day they’d have a distinct advantage in mobility and agility, not to mention that there was two of them. It was also clear that, anytime it seemed like I might be gaining some sort of an advantage, they were going to just change the rules, Calvinball style. The trick is to take this approach and figure out how to turn it around on them.
At first, it was just Corey chasing me around, so it was easy enough to make a few (incredibly) halfhearted efforts at catching him. After all, when you’re dealing with a five year old it doesn’t even really require bright shiny objects to distract them (although it certainly helps,) so the trick is to wait until something else grabs his eye and he isn’t paying attention, then tag him and run (or quickly walk) away. Of course, eventually they start to catch on, so the effectiveness of this approach tends to diminish over time. Pretty soon they start recruiting their brothers to join in and chase after you, and you have to start picking one at a time to chase. Of course, even with their speed, agility and endurance you’re still going to catch to them eventually, which right about the point where they start throwing the whole “Base” thing into the mix. Base, for those of you who may have forgotten the vagaries of various childhood playground games, is basically a convenient excuse for someone not to be it when they’re tagged. Normally the location of said base is a fixed position in some easily accessible central location that can be reached quickly in the event of a rapidly approaching it.
This generally holds true right up until the time when the base suddenly ends up being inaccessible with the It approaching quickly. It is at this point that the definition of Base tends to shift around a bit. First it’s in one spot (which, of course, they happened to reach about .003 seconds before you managed to tag them), then it’s another spot, and then when none of those work things start to devolve into more theoretical things. At one point, I think they decided that anything made out of wood was base. Although this idea would theoretically result in a dramatic increase of the base-enabled surfaces available, it was also rather short-lived after I managed to find a convenient rake handle and call it a portable base. This resulted in a rather hasty reconsideration of the whole thing. Eventually it was decided (after a lot more running around trying to call various items base) that anything solid was now the base. If we were going by boring technical definitions that would have basically rendered the entire game physically impossible to play (unless everyone figured out some way to assume a gaseous state of some sort and then managed to find a way to chase each other around without dissipating into the atmosphere.) Of course, even going by a second grader’s definition of a solid this didn’t accomplish much anyway, since I pointed out that the big patio in my parents’ backyard that we were all standing on happened to be quite solid.
By this time I think we were all spending more time constantly redefining the ground rules and trying to flaunt whatever rules actually managed to stick than playing the game, and pretty soon it turned into hide-and-seek, which doesn’t work all that well when the only real hiding spots in the yard were either on the porch or behind the shed. And after that, I think everyone just went back to trying to set each other’s pants on fire with magnifying glasses (it’s a long story,) but fortunately/unfortunately there were too many clouds for any of this to be particularly effective. Eventually things mostly managed to settle down, but something tells me that those boys could keep going for quite a bit longer given the opportunity to do so. It can be tough to keep up with them sometimes.
When you’re dealing with young children on a sunny day with a large backyard, eventually everything ends up turning into Calvinball.