The other evening, I approached the afternoon Adventure Club in one of our favourite green spaces, the Marché Des Possibles, to say hi after my day of working in the Playschool had ended. I quickly found myself stuck in a snowball-throwing battle for supremacy over that acre of whiteness among the evergreens of the Marché. Snowball fighting season had returned! The children Megan works with in that group, of ages 5-9, include a few natural snowball fighters who saw in me a worthy opponent. I felt a surge of excitement come over me when the first child threw his snowball at me!
A few days earlier, before fighting these Adventure Clubbers, I had a spontaneous snowball fight with some of the parents who came to pick up their children at the local playground, at the end of one of our Playschool days. As we were throwing snowballs at one another – I’m not sure who even started it – I was reminded of my poor aim and that my left eye has very poor vision, while my right eye (which has 20/20 vision) compensates for it. I’m not usually so aware of this fact in my daily life. I wear glasses at home but have mostly neglected contact lenses otherwise. When it comes time that I need to aim at something precisely, though, I have learned to sometimes close my left eye and let my right eye do the work. If I don’t do this, I might end up missing the target by quite a lot.
I hadn’t needed to employ this technique for quite a while, though, and had forgotten how important it is to me and to my survival in such battles. So, as I was throwing snowballs with these parents, I was consistently missing them by quite a lot – snowballs flying far from my moving targets. Leaving the situation I felt both giddy and frustrated as I remembered both how fun it is to have snowball fights, and what it was I wasn’t doing that could have helped me in my game.
So, by the time I met with the Adventure Club group, I knew what I needed to do to challenge them in the way they wanted to be challenged. I prepared my snowballs while they did the same, and I ran throughout the Marché, bobbing and weaving excitedly, imagining myself as a boxer, preparing for the fight. This time around, aware of my limitations, I closed my left eye when necessary and took aim in my highly asymmetrical way. I remembered what I hadn’t done in my last battle, and I knew how to get them this time!
When we play in a way that allows us to take stock of who we are, we can remember what our limitations and our strengths are. We can begin to approach what we need to do in order to strengthen our senses, capacities, and will. In Playwork we are aware of how ‘rough and tumble play’ often has everything to do with gauging personal strength, flexibility, and our own physical capacities. It allows us to exist more consciously in our bodies, and reengage more deeply with who we are as physical beings.
For me, being reminded of this physical adaptation I needed to make to be a good snowball fighter had everything to do with one of the most positive benefits of rough play – being more in tune with my physicality, in the name of self-reliance and confidence-building. I love being in a green space like the Marché and thinking of myself as making the kind of physical adaptations that are necessary to my survival, as an animal in my small space of wildness. And I loved being reminded that winter could feel as just as active, if not more, of a season as the summer. Most excitedly, I was reminded this winter, as I am every winter, of the importance of snowball fighting.