“Send Betsy Right Over”


A favorite game for us girls was “Red Rover.” In this game two lines of girls face off against each other forming chains by holding hands. One team chants “red rover, red rover, send _____right over.” The girl who is named then runs at full speed into the opposing line, trying to break through between two girls. If she is successful at breaking the chain, she can take one girl back with her to join her team. If she can’t get through, she has to join the opposing team. Theoretically it is played until only one player is left on one team. We never made it that far. In our case, it ended when  everyone was thoroughly sore from being run into.

I was one of the two smallest girls in my group. I was a poor candidate to be called to come “right over,” since I would rarely get through the line. I was also not an ideal member of the chain and probably suffered more arm collisions than most as stronger girls broke past me.

Teams were chosen by two team captains, usually the same two biggest girls. They would take turns choosing members. No matter the game, I was usually one of the last girls chosen. While contemporary theory suggests this is a dreadful thing to do to children, I accepted the logic of it. I was, after all, short and not very strong. I am grateful that no adult intervened in the hope of making things more “fair.” Kids gain resiliency in many ways, including recognizing reality about their abilities. I excelled in the classroom, so I figured it all balanced out.

13 thoughts on ““Send Betsy Right Over”

  1. If adults work it all out for the children then the children loose the opportunity to learn. I found many adults were good examples but I also learnt plenty from working out probklems with my peers. I quickly learnt that strength and size were not my assets and that I’d need to use others talents if I were to prosper. I am glad that this lesson wasn’t taken away from me or I may have had problems later in life.


  2. As young boys, we played an identical playground game. Except we called it ‘British Bulldog’, as the first lone boy to have to break the line had to be as tough as a Bulldog. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.


  3. Hear hear! Life isn’t fair, never has been, and anyone promising it would be.is doing their child a disservice. A parent must be fair in treating each child equally (which doesn’t always mean treating them the same) so that this is their norm and they are fair in their dealings with others. They still need to learn how to lose with resilience.
    At school, I was always near the top of my class and when my school reports said ‘could do better if tried’ i genuinely didn’t understand what they meant. I did the homework and whatever else was required, but no more. Perhaps, if I’d failed more often I would have learned how to try harder. At college I did the absolute minimum to get through. I was bored. (My failures were all on the sports field, so I avoided it as much as possible.)
    When I returned to education in my late thirties I was amazed at how much I enjoyed learning. I still do.


    1. I am glad to see a comment from a new reader. I will check out your blog now. I think many bright kids are too bored to put in much effort on things that don’t interest them. I can understand your “underachievement.”


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