...break your mother's back!

Common childhood game involving the avoidance of the seams in a sidewalk. Sort of a makeshift hopscotch. At first this little diversion seems relatively innocuous, seeing as how protection of one's mother is the ultimate goal, and indeed the prize for winning.

However, the fact that no mother (much less yours) is ever actually in danger must be taken into account. From this perspective, it becomes clear that the mere presence of this "game" in a child's "bag of tricks" is indicative of a hidden hatred of mommy.

Spinal injury and the mother figure are two concepts that do not come together often, yet children are somehow able to bring them together without the presence of a palpable threat. It seems as though they've conjured up a situation in which the mother is in danger only for the purpose of reaching some sort of power over her.

When the game is not played, there is no apparent threat. When the game is played, on the other hand, nothing is achieved other than the introduction of the possiblity of bodily harm or even death.

One variation on this game seems to go in the opposite direction: "Don't step on the cracks cuz they're landmines." This version lacks the rhyming pizzaz of its better known sibling, but to me it seems to be a much more positive pursuit.

Some would argue that the choice of the "landmine" game indicates a deathwish on the part of the player, which would go against the cultural convention of the progeny replacing the progenitor. It is argued that the traditional "mother's back" game reinforces this convention, and hence has a positive effect.

It is my argument, however, that any reading of these games on the rather simplistic level of "survival of the species" is doing them a disservice.

Instead, I argue that "mother's back" vs. "landmines" is a conflict that can provide a window into the moral core of the player. The "landmine" game, I believe, has arisen out of a reaction to its matricidal relative. By playing the "landmine" game, the "mother's back" game is avoided, hence the child is putting him or herself into danger in order to protect his or her mother from harm.

It is essential––essential that we encourage the use of the "landmine" substitute in our churches and our schools. With its help, perhaps we can raise a whole new generation of selfless individuals, ready, willing & able to make the ultimate sacrifice for the well-being of others.