While we tend to think that young boys and girls play separately and are not really too interested in each other, when you stop to look, there is a lot of interaction between them at recess. It’s fleeting, very innocent, but also vaguely flirtatious. They’re practicing for a game that will go on for a lifetime, (though they don’t know that yet). In case you’re doubting me at this point, here are a couple examples. They happened at Currie Elementary School in Richmond, but I can guarantee that “chase” is popular at every recess everywhere.
I noticed some laughing and gentle shoving among some of the primary students, and got there in time to hear Ben laughing and saying, “Christina, I love you, but you ruined my show and tell.” Quite the admission for a six-year old. Christina responded by giggling and peeking through the tree branches at her suitor. She didn’t look at all remorseful about the “ruined” show and tell, but she did look quite pleased with the attention.
The next day Yvonne, after extending her coat towards Louis in an invitation to grab it, quickly moved it out of his reach when he went for it. She then wagged her finger at him, managing to look very cute while pretending to scold him. After four repetitions Louis, who still hadn’t gotten the coat, was mesmerized, though probably he couldn’t tell you exactly why.
Most of these interactions end up as some some sort of “chase” which is handy since young children spend most of their recess time running anyway. The girls run the show, so to speak, initiating the chase more often than not. I have had more than one little boy run up to me with girls in pursuit, wordless and a bit overwhelmed, and hoping that hanging around with me will buy him a respite. The girls usually lose interest at that point, but within 30 seconds he’ll be off looking for them, hoping to be chased again. Alas, by then the girls are usually doing something else, and the moment is over.
“Chase” and its attractions are new to children, just as everything else is new to them. Like all renewals, this one is reassuring, as it’s a pretty safe bet that the next generation will continue the timeless game of “chase” and eventually get caught. The truth is, we’re more or less counting on that.