(Arnold Friberg not available
for truer artistic rendition)
Living Room—What started as a fun game for Meaghan (5), Jane (5), and Eli (4) erupted in conflict around the rules of “The Floor is Lava.”
The game, where players imagine the floor to be lava that participants must avoid while simultaneously pushing others in, started pleasantly enough. What sparked the initial conflict was Meaghan’s foot dragging across the carpet. When Jane and Eli proclaimed her “out,” Meaghan replied that she didn’t fall in. This gave rise to a long debate over whether one could be effected by merely touching the lava, by only being sprinkled with it, or whether total immersion was essential.
Meaghan asserted that, since her older brother Patrick had taught her “the real way” to play, she knew the actual rules. Meaghan and, indirectly, Patrick’s authority were then roundly questioned.
Official rules, rule-making authority, lava sprinkling versus immersion were not the only conflicts that marred what would have otherwise been enjoyable time together. Eli boldly proclaimed that Matt (8 months), a baby who only recently began to crawl, was out. Jane, who is fiercely protective of Matt, retorted that Matt doesn’t even know that the floor is lava and therefore cannot be out. Eli pointed out that even without knowing he was in lava, Matt was, as was obvious to everyone, in lava, and therefore out. This point of conflict further divided the children.
The disagreements grew to such a conflictive pitch that adults had to separate them and then direct the children toward other activities. Nevertheless, the kids remained angry, and at press time it is still unclear if any would be willing to return to the once enjoyable activity or if the conflict might ruin the game forever.