Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Toilet Tag

Yesterday we went down the street to play in the cul-de-sac. My friend Ellen lives there and called to tell me everyone was outside. There are three families down there with a total of eleven kids. Yes, I said eleven. Two of the three families are Catholic and one just had bad luck with an IUD. Add in my three and you have fourteen. That’s practically a herd. Moving on. The snow had melted off the asphalt and so for the first time in weeks, the kids could run and play. They’d all been suffering from Trapped Monkey Syndrome so it was sort of like uncorking a big bottle of crazy.

They went ape schmidt.

Seriously. They were running around as fast their pale, Wii-weakened legs would carry them. They were screaming so loudly I almost walked back up the street for earmuffs. One kid asked to go inside and was told “NO!” before the question had escaped his lips. OK fine. It was my kid. Asking if he could play Lego Star Wars. Typical.

But after being rebuffed, he quickly joined the other children in what I stupidly assumed was game of tag. It wasn’t tag. It was TOILET TAG. Somehow, they had developed this alternative to a normal game to make it extra gross and to include the periodic use of fart noises. You have to admire their creativity.

Basically, Toilet Tag follows the same rules as freeze tag. Except when you get tagged, you have to squat down as if you were sitting in an invisible chair and you became a toilet. In yoga, I believe this is called the “chair position”. I can hold the correct chair position for about 60 seconds before my legs start burning and I fall down. First graders can comfortably hold the chair position for two and half hours.

So when you’re tagged, you become frozen in the chair position as a toilet. To become a person again, someone either needs to sit on you or flush you. Flushing consists of someone running over to you and pretending to flush your left ear. If you were “it”, you had to have four of the fourteen kids tagged and frozen as toilets before you won and could become a regular player again. Base was the front steps of Ellen’s house. Base had a 5 second rule. Mommies could not be base, but if your mommy needed to tell you something you were in automatic time-out from the game.

Only Ellen and I were observing them, and it was fascinating. What we saw was pure kid-tastic awesomeness. I recently read about how “the culture of childhood” is being lost. I get that. Families are busy. Parents work. Kids are overscheduled. We can no longer assume (as our parents did) that it’s safe to let our children run around the neighborhood with no adult supervision. Plus, as I’ve mentioned in past posts – I have that disorder whereby I think every adult I don’t know is a serial sex offender. But I have issues.

I have very fond memories of time spent running around doing nothing with no grown-ups in sight. There’s something really valuable about being bored and stuck outside with a bunch of kids in your neighborhood. Kids who you may not even like all the time, but you have to get along with them because they’re there. So you’re forced to get over yourself, include people when you don’t want to (or risk being excluded later), and come up with something fun to do. And you quickly figure out who’s really nice, and who always has an idea up their sleeve, and who are the leaders and the followers, and I swear all these things are good for you.

So I thank Maude that I live in a neighborhood where my children can play outside safely. Where they can run around with a gaggle of kids and engage in those bizarre rites of negotiation, hierarchy and ingenuity that all kids should have. While I was standing there, smiling and feeling fortunate, I was reminded that another part of the “culture of childhood” is a kind of ruthless, time-has-stopped, Lord of the Flies desire to win games like Capture the Flag.  Or Toilet Tag.

Ellen’s littlest daughter Jo is a good example of this.  At 5 years old, she is a tiny peanut of irresistible cuteness, fluffy hair and strong-willed ferocity. Like her mother, she’s little but she’s hard core. Don’t even go there with her – even if she does weigh 34 pounds soaking wet. Someone twice her size and her age, tried to mistakenly un-freeze (or should I say un-toilet) her, and I watched bemused as that child lost her damn mind in the manner of Napoleon Bonaparte upon being told he was heading to Elba.

“NO! Not flush me! FLUSH YOU! Do you hear me?! FLUSH YOU! Get back here! I said FLUSH YOU!”

At which point Ellen and I started silently shaking with laughter.

Then my 5 year old son Hawk was “it” and sadly, the kid had no game. No strategy. He couldn’t get anyone out. After watching him flail around laughing for five minutes, I started to see him get frustrated and angry. So I made a bad call. I grabbed my daughter Thumbelina in a reverse bear hug and told Hawk to tag her. I shouldn’t have interfered in the game. Mommies are not supposed to get involved.

Time slowed down. She saw her brother running towards her to tag her and turn her into a toilet. So she turned into Chuck Norris instead.  In extreme slo mo, she looked around and then used her leverage in the bear hug to defy gravity and lift her body up and karate scissor kick her brother square in the throat with a size 4 Sketcher.

It was both perfection and totally horrifying. She left a perfect footprint on his neck. He was thrown back about ten feet, hands grabbing his neck, sputtering exactly like it was a kung fu movie. There was a moment of silence. Everyone who saw it stopped short. One of the big kids exhaled slowly and said: “Daaaaaaang…” while staring at Thumbelina with something between fear and respect.

Then Hawk started wailing. He was OK, he was just selling the foul. He told his sister he was taking a break, and she had to be “it”. Then the mommies fussed over him for a few minutes and wiped off what was a truly impressive footprint. When he calmed down, I asked him if he wanted to rejoin the game.

He looked up at me slyly and nodded. And then he ran off. He told his sister he was coming back in the game and he was taking her place as being “it”. She nodded and screamed: “SUB!! Hawk is IT!!” and before she could take a step – he tagged her. She froze in fury and dropped into chair position.  Then he pointed to the three other kids stuck frozen as toilets, counted them off and said with a smirk: “I win.”

I guess he had game after all.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011


  1. OMG I am spewing hot tea out my nose laughing...karate kick to the throat is priceless. So glad Hawk was uninjured but I'm just picturing this all going down. Reminds me of being a kid! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Awesome! Ninja kicks and toilet tag... sounds about just perfect for wild kids day out. You kinda have to marvel at the sheer kidtasticness of toilet tag... all disgusting and fun at the same time.

  3. LOVE the karate kick! I am surprised boy child did not blame you entirely for the incident.

    I am extremely impressed that you were able to figure out all the rules of Toilet Tag. My kids and their friends used to play Pom Pom Tag. After several years, I still only know that it has to be played at our house using our front yard tree as base. Any questions I have ever asked about the rules were met with looks of disdain and the underlying understanding that I should mind my own business and go back in the house.

  4. Kids are amazing! Toilet Tag - I'm totally playing this at my next dinner party! Minus the ninja kick. Ha!


  6. Oh how I wish we had a neighborhood like that! But my kids would probably be fine running around by themselves outside seeing as we are the only people on our street under 86. My kids could totally take an 86 yearold! I also have the same everyone I don't know is a sex offender disorder, only mine is a little worse. See sometimes Im like oh I've only known him 12 years what if he IS a sex offender & he just hasn't been caught yet?!?

  7. OMG! Toilet tag! I used to LOVE it. It was especially awesome when one of the neighboring families got roller blades and whoever was "it" got to wear one and skate/skateboard after people- because obviously it would be too easy if we got to wear 2 of the roller blades :).

  8. 4 families totalling 14 kids? That's nothing. My best friend and her sister have 11 kids among them. :)

  9. This is pure awesomeness. And now there is an ad for toilets on the side of your page! ;-) I am also thankful that we were able to move (2 years ago) to a neighborhood where my kids can run and play outside with their friends, unsupervised. They go from house to house, and I know the moms are checking in with them. And it's sooo good for them! :-) I loved running the neighborhood clan of kids as a child. I was the oldest, so what I said ruled, by default. ;-)

  10. Your kids are made of awesome.

  11. That was by far the best thing I have read all month. Thank you!

  12. My kids LOVE playing toilet tag! I remember when I first found out about it a few years ago and I too was equally grossed out and in awe of the creativity. I will have to remember the ninja kick, though. That's some serious intensity from Thumbelina, I must say.

  13. Hawk FTW! Way to think after being ninja kicked in the neck, dude!

  14. Love love love your kids. Remind me of mine. In a good way. Remember this story for Hawk's graduation/wedding/etc. A glimpse into the inner genius that will makke him a corporate phenom someday!

  15. I think I used to play toilet tag, too! Rock! We also played TV tag...ah yes, even when our parents kicked us outside we still managed to incorporate TV into our games. Great post, Lydia. It made me so nostalgic. I have the best, best memories from those long afternoons and evenings roaming our block in a pack of kids.




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