It’s been joked about on Big Bang Theory and parodied with ESPN style “World Championships”, but there’s something still very cool about the classic kid’s game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. In an often messy adult world where people can’t settle their differences, it’s a refreshing reminder that disputes can be resolved in a painless fashion. Such was the lesson taught by Youngest’s recent Science Fair project.
Last week was Youngest’s elementary school Science Fair and he and one of his buddies opted to do a project together, with the initial concept involving “something about momentum”. Knowing Youngest’s proclivities, I suspected that it didn’t involve toy cars or tennis balls and after the two of them spoke with my wife – the Science Fair Queen – it narrowed down to examining the effect of drag upon a moving object. The final project entailed a comparison of the average running time of a Razor scooter compared with the same scooter bearing a 2′ x 4′ plywood board tied to the front run on the same downhill course. Since the experiment required that the rider be the same for all of the trials – and it involved wearing a motorcycle helmet – the final question came down to who would ride the scooter down the course. As I sat at my desk eavesdropping on the conversation, an acceptable and useful habit, the boys decided to resolve the dispute with Rock, Paper, Scissors and when I simultaneously heard Youngest call out Crap! while his buddy cheered, I knew the question had been decided. The project came off well but what was refreshing was the willingness of the boys to abide by the game’s outcome; there was no rancor and no pissiness about unfairness and I can only wish that most of the adults in this world had the same attitude.
The game has a place in our relationship, a practice that occurs while waiting for shopping females, a bus or simply killing time. I can still take the boy in most physical activities, but he’s been consistently able through the years to beat me in prolonged game sessions and it was only this weekend, after a sixty round session that he explained his strategy for beating me and most others that he plays. The key is that he’s got a strategy while the rest of us – kids and adults alike – are simply throwing out hand gestures in the hope of winning a particular round. His practice occurs when he loses a round and the opponent throws out the next gesture; he expects that the person will throw the same gesture with the thought that if a gesture won before, it should hopefully win again. He responds with the gesture that can best it and more often than not, he wins that round. Sometimes, the person even tries that gesture again and he’ll make a call on whether he thinks that his opponent would be the type to try that. Over a game with multiple rounds, he’ll statistically take the majority from the opponent. After he explained himself, I simply sat and stared at this ten year-old and wondered at how his mind works.
There’s another point to be made however, and it goes beyond a seemingly mindless, pointless game. Take the time to engage the kids in these activities, while waiting at the mall or under a basketball hoop and you’ll be surprised at what you might learn. It might simply pertain to a new favorite flavor of ice cream but again, it might offer a potent insight into the child’s life. When I find that Youngest is starting to play the teen version – Rock, Paper, Scissors, Balls – then I’ll know that he’s arrived at the onset of male puberty.