Jack straws

We love Jack Straws.

Jack Straws

As we open the box and pile the pieces high, a circle of calm encloses us. Pushed right outside the arena of play is the constant constraint and shackle of our daily lives; the humdrum of strategies and parenting tools lay forgotten, unnecessary next to the joy of play. Here, on the inside we turn our attention to new, more colourful tools: the ladders, the hooks, the sledgehammers and the walking sticks so critical to the game.

For the fifteen minutes it takes to play, all the stresses, the labels, the meltdowns, and the challenges seem a distant memory; they hold no power here. We both fall into the pure and natural rhythm of concentration, and there is an easy, shared enjoyment in every move. To us, Jack Straws represents respite; a precious few moments of blissful, carefree freedom.

It wasn’t always this way, and it took a long time for us to get here. Games and fun trigger rage in CHT. Play – with its customs and difficulty levels and need for cooperation – all too often creates an emotional bottleneck that requires self-control and a self-confidence well beyond her reach. Games – with their regulative and constitutive rules – are little more than bear traps, baited to snare and trip her up.

So Jack Straws offers us a key to some much needed, child-like play, and also a perfect metaphor for the journey we have taken to get here. Just as we precariously push and nudge at the pieces in search of the perfect angle and pressure with which to ease out the spade or the pick, we have to patiently tweak and nudge at the tangled barriers and obstacles that block our route to fun and the lighter side to life. Each attempt, each foray into the pile can cause fresh emotional tremors, shifts and landslides that stop us dead in our tracks once again. But as soon as our turn comes again, we dive bravely in, eager for another try.

The game – like our lives – demands a light but firm touch. We bite our tongues and hold our breaths, wary of the risk that comes with every move. But we brace ourselves and keep chipping away at the pile, revealing little by little what lies beneath. Both games fascinate and challenge, and both require skill and perseverance.

And to both we give our whole, hopeful hearts.

Jack Straws

18 thoughts on “Jack straws

  1. What a lovely metaphor and shows how far you’ve come as a family. I’ve never played Jack Straws and am now feeling like I’ve missed out on something. Will have to look into it as I’m sure Katie would love to play (we play Jenga frequently though!)

  2. I’ve never played Jack Straws either, but it looks fun! You’re right about play being frought with unexpected difficulties though – even with my littlies we encounter surprising results when we attempt to play.

  3. I have played Jackstraws when I was younger but not with the boys so it’s one to keep in mind. I love the way you parallel the game with your life, very clever. From what I can remember it can be quite tense at times wondering which item to pick to create the least disruption, sounds just like our life too. xxx
    Thank you for linking up to the weekly adoption shout out.

  4. That was an absolutely beautiful post. It’s amazing how certain things generate much needed calm. That game sounds like a good idea. Glad to have discovered your blog via #PoCoLo. I am teetering on the edges of a conversation about adoption with MrG, I’ll be interested to read back through your blog. Have a lovely calm Easter!

  5. Beautifully written, I’ve played ‘Jack Straws’ with my mum and brother as a child, but never have I played it with as much passion and conviction as you describe here :) x

  6. I’ve never heard of Jack Straws before, and I’m not sure if it’s one Mini could cope with…customs and rules in games are a struggle for him, and so we tread carefully over what we play.
    But I love how you’ve written about the game and your life, really beautiful as always.

    Thanks for linking with the Weekly Adoption Shout Out x

  7. Jack Straws was a firm favourite for me when I was a child – love the analagies and metaphors that bring such depth to the power and the struggle of play – the daily fight we have battling with barriers and fears, rules and constraints.

  8. Beautifully written. Very powerful with such depth of feeling. Just found your blog from hopping about a bit :-) Glad I found you. Like others I haven’t played Jack Straws but I think I may be soon with my eldest daughter. She’d love it. And if it can bring calm in amongst the chaos at times they it certainly gets my vote xx

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