For the record, I think “Mother, May I?” is a stupid game. “Mother, May I?” being the game where children line up in a row some 100 ft. from the game leader and then ask for permission to advance. “Mother, may I take two steps?” To which the game leader, the “mother,” responds, “Yes, you may,” or “No, you may not.” “Steps” can be replaced with “leaps,” “jumps,” “gallops,” etc. It is neither a game of luck, nor skill. If an authority figure is playing the “mother,” the game advances fairly, with children evenly paced in their efforts to reach the finish line. If a child is the leader, the results are haphazard, usually favoring the friends of the leader. “Yes, [popular child whose attention I would love to gain], you may take twenty frog leaps.” “No, [child who spends recess crying in a corner] you may not take three tiny penguin shuffles.”
I never realized as a child how completely arbitrary the game truly is. Now, why would I want to stand in a line waiting for permission to walk to a randomly chosen point? Looking at it now, I can hardly believe any child would want to participate in such a lame non-game. And yet, my Sunday School class of three and four-year-olds has declared it a hit. We play it every week. I won’t make any blundering attempts at child psychology as I observe that these children adore asking for permission, and then having that permission granted. I’m a very permissive “mother” in the game. Mostly because, in my class, no one actually wants to win. “Yes, you may take three baby steps.” “Yes, you may take two hops on one foot.” Usually they advance halfway across the play mat in a series of steps and leaps, and then run back to the starting line, not wanting the game to reset itself with a winner.
Except for the one little boy who wins the game every round, usually multiple times, with outlandish proposals for the method of advancements. He sits on the sidelines, watching the other children slowly advance a step or two at a time. Then he jumps in and asks to take horse gallops, or kangaroo hops, or fast runs, or some other mode that will take him to the finish in two permissions or less. He’s sort of playing his own game. But they all are, really. I think they feel like it’s a game between us, each child and I, rather than between each of them and the other children. They ask their permission from me, and then I grant it or deny it. It’s the attention of getting to make a request that they like, not the supposed race involved.
I like this game better. Really, the kids are the leaders. And like the “Simon Says” game where Troy instructed us to do a “ferris wheel” (i.e. cartwheel) and a “cool trick,” I get a lot of amusement out of seeing what kids will ask permission to do. I also get a lot of satisfaction out of granting it. Out of being able to say “Yes, you may,” when the real life answer is more usually, “No, you may not.” No, you may not take off your shoes. No, you may not climb on the table. No, you may not lick that playdough.”
“Mother, may I take four bunny hops?” Yes, you may.