Summertime isn't as easy as it used to be, as far as kids' games are concerned

Jun 28, 2013

Summer time, and the livin' is easy.

But not if you have children. Nowadays, you have to drive your kid to soccer camp and band camp, to this lesson and that clinic, to make sure they never have a single un-programmed minute of summer to themselves.

Yes, something is gained from all this -- like structure and safety -- but something is lost, too. You see a basket in every driveway, but no one playing on them. Without their own games, kids never learn how to settle their own arguments. Does any ten-year-old know what a "do-over" is?

Instead, they're forced to specialize in one sport, hoping to earn a college scholarship. They are more likely to get knee surgery first.

Yeah, sure, they'll be busy and safe and supervised -- but what fun is that? They miss out on the simple excitement of making up their own games -- no matter how stupid or dangerous.

A few years ago I told you about the Garage Door Game, in which we took the garage door remote control as far from the garage door as possible,  pushed the button, then tried to dive underneath the door before it cut us in half. Cool? Totally. Competitive, You bet.

I also explained the Baloney Game, which entailed whipping slices of baloney onto the ceiling, where they'd stick if you did it right, and then waiting for them to fall back to Earth. If you managed to take a bite out of the pink disc on the way down, you won!

But I didn't have time to mention a few other favorites, like the Evel Knievel Game, the Put the Milk on the Register for a Month Game, and the Make a Towering Inferno Out of the Oreo Package on Your Mom's Coffee Table and See What Happens Next Game.

I was going to explain these, but instead I decided to ask my Facebook friends for their favorites -- and boy, howdy, they sent over 50 stories, many of them involving something called Lawn Jarts.

Anybody born after 1980, when lawyers were invented, might be asking, "What are Lawn Jarts?" Well, let me tell you: Lawn Jarts were the darts of the gods: foot long, inch wide metal spikes of pure mayhem. If you played the game the way the box told you, they were already plenty dangerous -- but only weenies bothered to read the box.

One friend and his buddies threw the Lawn Jarts straight up into the air as high as they could. Then, while the metal projectiles accelerated back to earth, instead of running out of harm's way, they would see how close they could get to them before they pierced the ground. Closest, wins!

Our dumbest games came in three main categories: things you could fire at each other, like tennis balls, golf balls and BBs; things that moved very fast, like Schwinn Sting-Rays, mini-bikes and, yes, cars, often with you and your friends being yanked behind them on roller skates or skate boards; and things you could ignite, like firecrackers, bottle rockets, and good ol' gasoline, which could create flaming tennis balls, which you could catch with your mom's leather gardening gloves. Last one to quit, wins!

These games were not smart, safe, or educational. But we weren't playing them to learn life lessons or make some travel team or pad our college applications. We just wanted to have fun -- and, if we were lucky, survive.