Sticks make awesome toys! They are abundant- you can always replace a broken one or a find one to share with a friend. They provide the ultimate open-ended play experience as they transform from a walking cane into a wand and very often, yes, into a sword. It’s the sword part that has sometimes given me trouble. It’s the sword part that I think I worked at revising a little further this week.
It was Thursday that I experienced a magical stick-as-sword moment at school. Six boys, ages 3 through 8, were playing in the field each with a stick and almost all with a play silk turned cape. I had been observing their stick game from a distance and was happy to witness the way this particular game with stick swords seemed safe and inclusive. I saw the movement of the boys to go into the woods and made my way to follow their transition. Before I could catch up at all, what I saw was this running rainbow up our hill down the path at the edge of the woods and back out into the field again. With the fallen-leaf-trees and the bright silks flowing behind the boys, I could see their movement and safe return to the field. I was rather transfixed by this image of beauty, peace and positive energy of boys with sticks!
I can remember another moment a couple of years ago in our unschool co-op, when I was watching another group of boys play with sticks in a beautiful wooded park. My energy was very different. I was on edge every moment, worried that these sticks that seemed malevolent were going to hurt someone. Probably they did, too. I remember being full of question and concern at the time, wanting limits, but unsure how or which ones to put in place.
We have had a little share of stick challenge at Roots this year, too, but I am grateful for the opportunity to really process and find limits that feel natural and supportive of stick play. One of the simple shifts has just been around space. Stick-as-sword play happens out in the field where their is room for everyone. Also, the kids find, make or alter stick-swords to suit their size and the purpose of playing- sticks the length of their arm and rounded rather than pointy.
It’s really the shift in myself, though, that makes the stick play feel different. I try really hard not to linger on fear of someone getting hurt. If I can keep my head and heart in this trusting place, most of the shift is already happening around me just in my change in perspective. Then when something isn’t feeling right or safe, I follow my intuition on supporting kids with a limit that creates maximum freedom and care for all of us.
The great thing I am noticing is that this gets easier and easier! As I replace my mind’s stick-worry story with images like the one of the boys’ running rainbow of stick play through the woods, I reset my narrative around stick play. This is really why I like to write for myself or for you! these little stories from my school experience. I think that the stories I tell myself, that we tell ourselves, about children, ourselves, play, sticks, safety are part of how we create our world.
I think that as I revise the stories I live by I revise my life. Katherine Bomer says it well in Writing a Life, “Revision is hope… Revision is a second, third, fourth even a twentieth chance. We can revise our life… We can revise the way we operate in the world. Think about revision in the largest sense, of imagining things as they could be otherwise, as Maxine Greene says, Revision is forgiveness.”