Do kids roughhouse anymore? When I go out to the playground there isn’t a lot of action, the kind that used to make the playground fun.

Nobody gets beat up, or falls and rips a gash in their leg, you never see four or five kids gang up on the weakest kid and make him eat dirt, and of course you never, ever, ever see Kill the Man with the Ball.

That’s because parents are about five yards away, max, and the minute that one kid with the evil gleam steal’s the other kid’s shit, or the minute that the mischievous little girl starts stirring the pot and calling names, well, the parents are all over it, nipping it in the bud.

Kids will be kids

Roughhousing has a purpose. It’s innate, kids’ desire to roughhouse. There was never a kid born anywhere in any country to any set of parents who didn’t like roughhousing. But lately, kids don’t get to do it much.

Roughhousing helps kids bond with other people. It’s the fighting, attacking, hiding, crying, and making up that teaches kids how to bond with other people who aren’t named Mom and Dad. The best time to learn that you can’t go around socking your best friends is when you’re little, not when you’re old enough to carry a spear.

And of course deep down, but not too far back in human history, roughhousing prepared kids to fight and to kill, whether it was members of a competing community or whether it was prey. These things are what make roughhousing irresistible to little kids; the only people who don’t seem to like it are the helicopters.

Bad grandpa

When my grandkids come over, the first thing that the eldest wants to do is roughhouse. He will slam me with pillows, punch me in the gut, face, legs, arms, back, shoulders, and groin (if he can), and when all that fails will simply do a full body rush and fling himself onto me.

My usual response is submission while the pummeling goes on for a while, and then it’s met with overwhelming force. Sometimes it results in lots of crying, “Mamamaaaaaaaa!” a sobbing that lasts for ten or fifteen seconds and is followed by a renewed assault, just as intense as the last one.

His little brother, aged seven months, stands there fascinated, dying to be part of the action, slapping the couch cushions with a “Let me play! Let me play!” rapturous visage. An accidentally-on-purpose kick from big brother will crumple him, after which he leaps up, smiling, and thwacking the cushion even harder.

Eventually of course, I wear out. Roughhousing is for the young.

There’s a moral there somewhere.



Life goes by pretty quick. Roughhouse while you can. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!


9 thoughts on “Roughhousin’”

  1. That’s the most conservative thing you’ve ever written… Imagine that… Humans are carnivorous animals prone to rough tactics… Smirk…

  2. Roughhousing has gotten two 5-year olds kicked out of my son’s after school program and my kid is on the verge of following them out the door permanently…

  3. When grandson #2 was a toddler we babysat him and his big brother. I played with #2 for a while, and he seemed to like it. Then #1 ran into the room. He tackled his little brother and started throwing him around like a sack of potatoes. Within seconds the little one was laughing hysterically and asking for more. Lesson learned.

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