Hippie Squared: The Tickle Game

Tickle GameI set out on our trip to South Carolina for family Christmas this year with one central mission: to win the hearts and minds of my niece Genevieve, age five and my nephew Jackson, age four.

I had the honor five years ago to share Genevieve’s first Christmas, but she was less than a year old then and she doesn’t remember me bouncing her on my knee while she laughed.

She and Jackson don’t seem to remember Christmas from two years ago very clearly either, which is just as well. They just seemed scared of me that year. But that’s okay, I told myself then. Time is on my side.

So on the first full day of our trip this year, I found my opening. Genevieve drifted over near me in the living room, looking for something to do. I don’t know how I was inspired to ask this–I guess it just seemed like an important part of a kid’s resume–but I said, “Are you ticklish?”

“Yes,” she replied, with a little lyrical upward lilt that seemed to invite further inquiry.

“Do you like to be tickled?”

“Yes,” she answered again, a little more slyly than shyly this time.

So I invited her to be tickled. I stationed myself kneeling on the soft rug in the central hallway not far from the Christmas tree, and she and soon Jackson, called by the laughter of his cousin, would play at trying to get by me. I would grab them and tickle them: the magic waist spot, armpits, bottoms of feet, even the neck eventually. They would roll and tumble and laugh and giggle.

This quickly became known as “The Tickle Game” and we played it almost every day. Jackson is a real competitor—at about two he asked his parents to call him “Team Boy,” so he made The Tickle Game a contest. If he could get by me to the end of the rug without being tickled he awarded himself one point.

Genevieve was not only not so into the points but by the last few rounds of the last game on Boxing Day she gave up all pretense of even trying to get away and simply ran full into my arms giggling before I even tickled her.

Holiday mission accomplished.

(And obviously it made quite an impression on me, because I also wrote a three line poem about it over here…)