Copyright Bil Lepp 2014
We play a game at our pool called Bulldog. Here’s how you play:
First, somebody yells, “Who wants to play Bulldog?” Children assemble at the deep end; a fight breaks out to see who will be It first.
A new fight breaks out over whether we will allow various rule modifications such as “Add-ons,” “Drains,” and “Chains.”
The It swims to the middle of the deep end. All of the Non-Its line up along the edge of the deep end. The It shouts, “Bulldog.”
The Non-Its dive in and try to swim to the other side of the pool without being tagged. The It is merciless and tries to tag as many Non-Its as possible, thus making them Its.
Several fights break out as to whether the It actually tagged particular Non-Its.
During the second round, all of the people whom the It tagged are now also It. Several Its now dog-paddle in the middle of the deep end. “Bulldog,” is called. The Non-Its dive in, and the Its try to tag all the Non-Its, thus making them Its.
Eventually only one Non-It has managed to stay a Non-It. One kid always manages to not get tagged for the duration of the game despite having to swim back and forth across the pool against ever increasing odds. That person is declared “The Winner.”
A fight breaks out as to whether “The Winner” or the “First Person Tagged” is It first for the next game. The conclusion is that The Winner will be the It.
Bulldog is a fast paced, grueling game. I believe it was one of those games that stupid adults invented to teach kids teamwork. I also think that some kale-eating, socialist peacenik (wait, I eat kale) devised Bulldog to hip children to the notion that if you work diligently trying to sway a callous populace determined to avoid you, you can eventually turn the tide until All People work with you. And once you have converted the masses, you have not Won, you have simply shared your inner peace with a needy and wanting world… and the one person who was never tagged did not Win but was simply too full of hate and anger and malice and greed to ever want to bathe in the unity of a community struggling to overcome.
Cough. Gag. Splutter.
Only stupid adults think there can be a world where people neither create winners nor strive to be Winners. We want Winners. We like Winners.
Looked at it from the Darkside: Bulldog teaches that if you are It you must hunt all the prey to Win. It teaches you that the easiest way to hunt the prey is to subjugate others, to make them part of your pack, so that you can more effectively continue the hunt.
If you are not It, Bulldog teaches you that the whole world is against you and even those people you consider your friends will turn on you and try to subvert and pervert your desire for freedom and independence.
Either way, the world is a hard and ugly place.
However, there is some middle ground here.
Stupid adults don’t want one kid to win because then all the other kids will feel bad. Some stupid adults would rather their child revel in mediocrity, sure and certain that they need not strive because no one is any better or any worse then they are.
Other stupid adults believe that the only victory is winning. They believe that if their child does not win, then they have lost. That is a lot of pressure.
I never get tired of saying that getting a Silver medal in the Olympics probably sucks…for about three days. And then it dawns on you, “Hey, I am the second best person in the whole world at spinning ribbons.”
Somebody always wins Bulldog, but nobody wins Bulldog twice in a row because the Winner has to be the It in the next go-round. You know who invented that rule? Not stupid adults. Kids invented that rule because kids want a Winner, but kids also have an innate sense of fairness. Not all kids are willing to admit that innate sense of fairness, but it is there. It is often displayed as an innate sense of unfairness. You hear a lot of kids say, “Hey, that’s no fair.”
All kinds of kids play Bulldog at our pool. Skinny kids, fat kids, older kids, younger kids, good swimmers and poor swimmers. Stupid adults assume that the slow kids and the poor swimmers are at a disadvantage because the It will naturally single those children out to tag first.
Attack the weak and the slow.
Not so. Okay, certainly some of that happens, but it is not always the case that the weakest kids fall first.
Every It has her or his own strategy. Some Its deliberately go after the fastest Non-Its first, thus increasing the overall power of the collective It.
The poorest swimmers, and this is where it gets interesting, the poorest swimmers want to what?
I can’t hear you.
Say it louder.
THE POOREST SWIMMERS WANT TO WIN.
The poorest swimmers, knowing that they cannot rely on their physical ability, look at the playing field and engage their smart, smart kid brains. They learn to dive in when all the Its are engaged chasing others. They learn to hold their breath long enough to outlast all the Its. They learn to swim in the wake of others. They determine to become better swimmers so they can win. The will to win makes them better people. They don’t always win, but they always strive to win.
Mediocrity is getting tagged It like everyone else. No kid wants that.
My favorite part of Bulldog is watching the kids build each other up. Kids know that it sucks to lose every time. Kids know that there are degrees of ability. Big kids, strong kids, kind kids, will sacrifice themselves by swimming into the Its, or drawing the Its to the far side, so that less able kids can make it across the pool. Kids who constantly cheat, who forever deny that they were tagged, or who brag too much, get ignored. Kids who constantly try to better themselves get noticed by the group and encouraged by the group. Right there in the swimming pool, because there are Winners and Losers, kids teach each other humility, sympathy, mercy, community and empathy.
“I Win!” shouts the last Non-It standing. “Hooray,” answers the crowd, “Now you are It.”
I’m a loser. Great God Above I have lost so many sporting events and so many board games and so many foot races. I played T-Ball for two years and I never got a hit. That is not a joke. I could not hit a baseball sitting still in front of me. I did not get a ribbon or a trophy for “Best Effort” or “Most Misses.” No, I got a look of pity that said, “You are the worst person ever to play T-Ball. Perhaps your talents lie in other areas.” And you know what? It turns out my talents do lie in areas other than the athletic arts, but if I had not lost in sports I would not have sought out activities in which I might excel.
I had smart adults. I had adults who said to me, “You are not very good at baseball. Or tennis. Or swimming. Or sprinting. Or Chess. Or Math. But keep looking and you will discover that at which you are good.” And I did.
Smart adults equip children to face a world that is filled with activities at which they will probably not exceed. Smart adults also equip children to continue exploring until they find an activity at which they do exceed. Very few people are good at everything. And nobody really likes those people, anyway.
Teach your children to lose. Teach your children to lose with grace. Teach your children to play Bulldog and, in the process, teach them to identify ways they can improve themselves and ways they can help others.
Oh, and don’t make kids eat canned peas. Only stupid adults make kids eat peas.
Check out other useful parenting advice in my book Muddling Through available on www.leppstorytelling.com, amazon.com, barnes and noble and so forth. This little book went #1 in it’s category on Amazon.