Every parent plays with their children. But have you ever really taken note of the exact process of playing with children? There are always “ground rules” that are pre-established with no written or verbal communication dictating them. They are just “known”. I discovered this the other day when I was playing Army with my son. I wholly enjoy playing “Army” with Bobby, but for the first time, I actually took the time to notice what exactly entailed our little battle.
The first thing that has to be done, is deciding as to who will be the “bad” guy and who will be the “good” guy. As ground rules dictate, the child is always the good guy. Parents are always the bad guy. You must establish this first because if this rule is broken, then the battle will not go as planned. Once the decision is made, then the picking of toy soldiers commences. This can be done in more than one way. Normally it ends up with the child taking 75% of the men, and sticking the adult with the “leftovers”. These are usually the maimed ones from previous wars with the “Baby Brother”, the “Vacuum Cleaner”, or the “Dog”. Thus, there are always more good guys than bad, but this is okay, because this is another rule that is pre-established. Again, if this rule is broken, combat will not be pretty. Once the men are in place, you must pick out “accessories” such as tanks, jeeps, and artillery pieces to support your army. Old toilet paper rolls make great cover for the soldiers and provide excellent targets for the good guys.
Now that the soldiers and tanks are in place, territory must be surveyed for any possible ground cover or protection. If this battle takes place inside, then a couch, chair, cushion, rug, and sometimes the “Dog” can make for natural protection. If this battle is to take place outside, then sticks, grass, and holes in the ground can make for natural protection. Again, ground rules dictate that the bad guys must always be at least partially visible and must always face the good guy. This means no sneak attacks during deployment of troops. Emphasization of this ground rule is stated for obvious reasons. After all the troops and support elements are in place, then the battle is to finally take place.
Once the battle has commenced, sound effects must be applied. This is normally done by the adult because they are the ones who are doing most of the “dying”. Such sound effects include the sounds of gunfire, artillery shells coming in, grunting of soldiers as they are shot and the whining and moaning of wounded men on the battlefield. Ground rules also dictate that the child (or good guy) must always win. In the event that the good guy only has one tank and two soldiers left, they immediately become invincible because the battle must rage until the bad guy is left with nothing. Occasionally, as the good guy gets older, the bad guy can win once or twice, but this is a rare occasion and must be done cautiously and with 100% agreement of both sides before battle commences.
Once the battle is over and the good guy has prevailed, all fallen soldiers must be revived; battered equipment must be repaired and a new battle must be planned. Repeat as necessary. The two most important ground rules of all are: “the good guy must always win”, and “the good guy must always be the child.”