Mr. 3 and his little sister Ms. M are partial to a bit of rough play. Wrestling, jumping from furniture to body slam each other, hitting, screaming, tackling – they’re into it. All in all they both give as good as they get, although Ms. M is starting to out muscle her older brother as her boundaries aren’t very defined.
On Tuesday afternoon an episode of rough play resulted in a blind being broken. To their credit I made this discovery as they quietly tried to “fix it” … but nonetheless I was pretty mad. Mr. 3 knows it is bad when I sit and say not much. The expression on my face undoubtedly says it all. There was an extended period of icy silence before I started ranting, raving, and repeating myself about time and place. The lecture, and yes it was a lecture, also touched on not being so rough to start with, strongly advocating the virtues of playing “nicely”.
So there I was on Tuesday night, sitting in bed listening to Life Matters on Radio National and wouldn’t you know it there was an interview with an expert in play, Dr Stuart Brown. Now imagine the expression on my face when Dr. Brown exposes rough and tumble play as vital, “a very significant part of learning who you are and how to engage others in a way that is significant and yet isn’t crucially critical at the moment … if you have read some of the work that I have done I worked originally with some very violent and anti-social men, homicidal and otherwise, and found in their life histories rough and tumble play was absent…”
It turns out that rough and tumble play is essential for humans and other animals as part of their social development. It is an important part in learning optimism, empathy, and resilience - “a powerful social learning tool”. Well, well… just hours earlier I had been promoting abstaining from this “vital” form of play, unbeknown to me steering my children closer to becoming psychopaths as adults.