Six-and-a-quarter eighths of a Phoenix

I was talking to Virgil about our recent cross-country skiing adventure, and he reminded me of the medals he won as “Bode Miller.” Early on in those little races, Virgil announced that two bronze medals would be worth one silver, and that two silvers would be worth one gold. But he didn’t stop there. “Two golds are worth a diamond. Two diamonds are worth a platinum. Two platinums are worth a phoenix. And two phoenixes are worth a replica of the sorcerer’s stone.” (He’s been reading Harry Potter recently. He actually said “replica.”)

As the number of first- and second- and third-place finishes started to mount, Virgil soon reached diamond status and began calculating his medal tally in phoenix units. He paused after every finish and did the math — in eighths if he’d won gold, or sixteenths if he’d taken silver. At one point, clearly in the lead, he reached 25/32nds of a phoenix. “Isn’t that the same as twelve-and-a-half sixteenths?” he asked. “That’s right,” said Sarah, who'd been doing the math, too.

“Or six-and-a-quarter eighths?” asked Virgil, and we got the giggles after that.

I’m thinking not of second-graders and silly math right now, but of how important it was for Virgil to establish rules for his races. It reminds me of one of the concerns that has been raised recently by the “no child left inside” movement. Kids who spend all of their time under adult supervision, or in scheduled, structured activities, or being entertained in front of a screen, have lost one of the wonderful, crucial parts of growing up — the chance for imaginative play, to create silly games and the rules that go with them. Our cross-country ski “races” didn’t create an opportunity for the socialization that often accompanies imaginative games (interpreting gray areas in the rules — as a group — or adapting and accepting new rules and playing by them), but I think the process was the same. Virgil was creating a world out there on the cross-country trail, and his imagination was firing.

The same process can happen with indoor play, too, I know. But it seems to happen organically, somehow, when you’re seven years old and Bode Miller and you’re going for the sorcerer’s stone.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Labels: , , ,