Yes, I had my concerns after the kids took over. Did I think every last metropolitan area in the nation needed a five-mile-long Slip N’ Slide? I did not. And I’m confident I speak for most adults when I say that we did not believe the freedom to put stickers on people’s butts required an amendment to the Constitution. But, for the most part, life continued. Heck, sometimes I even enjoyed sliding home from work.
Indeed, had the kids not come up with the idea of replacing school with daily seven-hour dodgeball games, I don’t know that things would ever have arrived at the point they did. But, of course, the kids did institute an all-dodgeball curriculum, and, of course, the adults refused to stay quiet about that one.
I still remember the electricity in the air after the dodgeball legislation passed. Some of the adults were calling for a strike: no more piggyback rides, no more bedtime stories, no more buying every horrific food creation our kids pointed to in the grocery store. (This was around the time all the “Kiss Your Own Booboo” bumper stickers began to appear.)
The radicals, the adults who were handcuffing themselves to playground equipment and dumping buckets of fresh ice cream into sewers, insisted that a strike would never work, that the kids would defeat it with the same ingenious one-two punch — an onslaught of adorableness followed by a sustained bombardment of whining — they’d used to overthrow us in the first place.
The pragmatists, meanwhile, thought we should talk to the kids. “They can be reasonable,” a corporate attorney called out at one gathering — an argument that would have been easier to buy had the attorney in question not still had whipped cream in her hair. (This was shortly after the passing of the bill that made it legal to smash whipped cream pies into everyone’s faces.) But the attorney turned out to be right, or, so it seemed, when the kids agreed to a meeting — a turn of events so surprising that I found myself checking the calendar to make sure it wasn’t an official “Opposite Day.”
We met in New York — Washington D.C. having already been turned into the world’s biggest dog park. Admittedly, there were warning signs from the start: We probably should have been skeptical the moment we entered the conference room and discovered that a Whoopie Cushion had been placed on every last one of our chairs. And, yes, the announcement of a snack break within five minutes of the meeting’s start — and then a second break less than 15 minutes later (this was before government-mandated snacking) — was certainly not an encouraging sign.
Still, in those few brief minutes between the smattering of artificial farts and the handing out of the juice boxes, we found the time to make our demands: No more all-day dodgeball; we did not want to see our tax dollars go towards 500,000 new moon bounces or a 1,000-foot chocolate fountain. And, no, the addition of boulder-sized marshmallows floating at the bottom of the chocolate fountain would not change our minds. Nor, for that matter, were we going to sit by quietly if the kids followed through on their plan to replace the Statue of Liberty with an even bigger statue of a chimp doing a karate kick.
The kids appeared to be listening. When we were done, Molly Peters — at the time she was six, and still only Vice President — put down her Rice Krispies square just long enough to answer us: “We think there’s only one fair way to settle this,” she said.
The thumb-wrestling match was scheduled for the following week. We chose a classical pianist named Phil Gregory to represent us, and after watching Phil train that week, I couldn’t help but think “just maybe.” Phil’s hands were hairy and strong. It was hard to picture him losing to a four year old.
In retrospect, I suppose the kids were right: If we really didn’t want index finger-assisted sneak attacks in the thumb-wrestling match, we should have called “no sneak attacks.” And I suppose we never explicitly said it was against the rules to dump buckets of dirty pond water on the loser. (Our bad, Phil!) But now, whenever I walk around at night with my government-mandated glow sticks or fly into New York City and see that giant chimp with his leg in the air, I can’t help but think back to that period and how close we came to a world where adults were again in charge.