Monday, July 23, 2007

At Play

Turns out I may have been wrong to have played that game of basketball in the driveway with my son yesterday.

Christopher Shea in the Boston Globe reports on the debate among anthropologists, psychologists, educators and other academic types about whether it’s really all that healthy for parents to play with their kids. Shea starts by citing an academic paper by Utah State University anthropologist David Lancy that argues that parents playing with their kids is a relatively recent phenomena limited mostly to middle-class and upper-middle-class Americans. Parents in most cultures think it’s silly for parents to play with their kids, Lancy says, and he’s worried about efforts to push more parent-child play on lower-income families through programs like Massachusetts Parent-Child Home Program. He says such programs assume that lower-income parents are bad parents and warns that advocates of parent-child play are open to charges of “cultural imperialism” by trying to teach poor parents to play with their kids, just like middle-class moms and dads do.

Back at our house, I know A.J. is going to want to play catch in the backyard sometime later afternoon—we do it just about every day. And now that I’ve been warned of the dangers of playing with my kid, I don’t know what I’ll tell him. Maybe I’ll just send him over to Lancy’s house to play.


Speaking of kids’ play: Last week A.J. overheard me talking about pinners, the baseball-style sidewalk game I grew up playing on Kilbourn Street on Chicago’s northwest side. In pinners, the batter scores by bouncing a rubber ball off a cement apartment building stoop and getting it past his opponent, who is playing the field and whose job is to catch the ball. (Into the street on the fly is a home run, usually.) A.J. wanted to know all about pinners, and insisted I show him how to play. Pinners doesn’t exactly translate well to the hinterlands, though. Instead of a concrete stoop, we had to make do with pine decking of our front porch. And instead of a sidewalk and parkway and a few weedy ailanthus trees, we had to play on our driveway, which is kind of antithetical to the whole pinners aesthetic. (Not enough street traffic in close proximity.) But whatever, A.J. loved it, and he’s been asking me to play it with him every day since. I think he’s itching to introduce the game to the kids next door. Maybe this is the start of a pinners revival in the hinterlands.

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