December 10, 2019

The Art of Roughhousing

“At 78 I should probably be sipping wine with friends in a “senior living community” or gazing at the sunset from a cruise ship. Instead I sit in my daughter’s New York apartment, waiting for my 5-year-old grandson to scream “Ninja warrior!” and jump on me.

We’re doing what we both enjoy—roughhousing. According to John Simpson’s blog, the Word Detective, in 19th-century Britain a “rough house” was a place where brawls regularly broke out. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb’s intransitive form: “To create an uproar or disturbance; to behave in a boisterous or violent manner; to fight. Also in weakened sense: to engage in friendly horseplay (with someone).”

My grandson enjoys being held upside down or tossed around in different ways, but sometimes the roughhousing gets too rough; he pokes me in the gut or bangs his head against my elbow. Sometimes I yell: “Too rough!” But 98% of the time it’s pure pleasure. I capture him, fold my arms around him—“prison,” in our lingo—and then let him escape. He attacks me again. We also play “Amusement Park.” I pretend I’m a roller coaster or tilt-a-whirl and give him a ride. He has to pay me with 10 hand-slaps per ride.”

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