Konda kondi (flip), getah (rubber band), teng-teng (hopscotch), bottle-cap shooting, batu seremban, congkak (pix left); these are but some of the many traditional games I grew up with, back in the boondocks called Bukit Besi in (then) backwaters Terengganu.
Nothing beats being out in the garden or on the pangkin* in the front yard with family and friends, all high-spirited and determined to outdo each other for the glory of gloating. (Pangkin = a raised wooden platform usually placed in front of the house, for the purpose of resting one's weary feet).
Rainy days, however, would be a real damper, for it would keep us confined indoors, thus limiting our play options; never mind the fact that sometimes we blatantly ignored parental orders to happily drench ourselves in Bukit Besi's notorious downpour, the kind that could swell the hill station's placid river fivefold in mere minutes.
Today, technology is able to keep children occupied even when it's all wet and gloomy outside. Yet, I still feel sorry for them, for these kids are deprived of the thrill of playing ingenious games under the hot sun, games that do not require anything more than flipping and balancing tiny bags of seeds, or skipping on a 'rope' made of entwined rubber bands.
These days, 'fun' comes in the form of a hand-held contraption with a screen and tiny buttons on it (what's it called, PSP?), or the "mother of all funs", PlayStation. Of course, not all kids are blessed with such luxuries. Having said that, there is one luxury which has since become a basic household necessity and is currently available to 16 million of us in Malaysia - the Internet.
Now folks, check this out; yesterday I Googled "online games" and the result shook my knees. There are 264 million related searches! This is downright scary!
Let's do some maths here. Even if as little as 1% of the results are links to game sites, that's 2.6 million game sites on the Internet! If a child spends his life visiting just one site per day, he would have reached out to only 29,200 sites by the time he returns to his childhood once again at the ripe old age of 80!
I asked my own kids, nieces and nephews which sites they frequent. Names that popped up with clockword regularity were Miniclip.com, Onlinegames.net, and Dailygames.com. In fact, they know these web addresses like the back of their hands!
Out of curiosity, I paid a visit to Miniclip.com just to see what the fuss was all about. Goodness gracious... there were so many games to choose from! Bearing in mind this old lady isn't exactly a fan, I did try my hand at a couple of games, and before I knew it, two hours had passed.
Frankly, it was so easy to get hooked. In fact I was thinking I could get used to this...... it was kind of fun. All I need now is a grandchild to play these games with!
I may not be so enamoured with online games but I must admit there are many positive aspects in favour of this digital phenomenon, one of which is physical safety. The world outside is becoming more dangerous to children - rising crime rates et al - that even letting the kids out to a playground hardly 500 feet away from one's doorsteps seem unwise.
I am all for keeping them indoors under proper supervision if their safety out in the big bad world cannot be assured. Playing online games is a small price to pay for their physical safety and their parents' mental well-being.
Secondly, letting kids loose outside is exposing them to undue influence, more often of the undesirable kind. To my eternal regret, one of my sons, now 32, picked up smoking at 15, the price of too much lepak freedom. Lepaking exposed him to peer pressure and without Mom within sight or sound to counter temptations, the inevitable happened.
In today's scheme of things, it's convenience over nostalgia when it comes to certain aspects of parenting. From a nostalgic prospective, I was fortunate enough to have had my children at a time when the Internet was not available commercially.
Hence they too had had the opportunity of experiencing the sheer joy of playing in the sun as much as I did, albeit in a concrete jungle as opposed to my kampung childhood.
One thing I didn't do enough, however, was to spend time with them in playing these games. I was too busy eking out a living and managing the household. Of couse, with the benefit of hindsight, I should have made time for them. After all, memories are made of such moments.
Wouldn't it be great if there was a specific website that facilitates playtime between parent and child? I may never have the opportunity to relate to this oncept nor apply it to bond with my own kids since they are already in their 20 and 30s (although I do play online Scrabble with one son and beat him most times!).
I am calling upon all young moms out there to try this 'new age' bonding; play games with your young ones when time permits. If it's online games they fancy, pick it up and join in; who knows you may just find genuine enjoyment in the games even more than they do!
And while you are at it, teach them a thing or two about the traditional games that you know. Let the child long buried in you emerge again and indulge in playing with the pure joy of carefree yesteryears. How's that for a plan?
I'm all for family bonding and instilling moments of togetherness between parents and their children by whatever means necessary. The keyword here is 'togetherness', so it doesn't really matter whether you are indulging in online games or on-ground fun, as long as both parties derive pleasure from them.
In the meantime, my son had just slapped me with a triple-word-score in Facebook's Lexulous. The nerve he has...! Please excuse me for I have to go now, to show him never to trifle with Da Boss....