III. CHILDHOOD FORMS OF ADDRESS, RULES AND FORMULAS
When they are six or seven, children begin to break away from the family-maternal protection, which has been permanent up until then. In their inner world, a change begins to occur with the appearance of the first forms of logical thought; that which has become commonly known as “use of reason”, in its many manifestations. The world of fantasy is replaced by a more realistic perception and children are able to establish relationships between different ideas and formulate categories. At the same time, the child becomes increasingly aware that it cannot meet all its own needs and instinctively tends to spend time with children of the same age.
Children take part in the creation of childhood society. That socialisation is best expressed in the group of friends that last until the threshold of puberty.
That group or gang develop a real micro-society will all the complexity and wealth of nuances imaginable.
From the outset, each children’s group in particularly and all in general have rigid and even categorical rules of coexistence. Certain individuals, particularly given their physical prowess or their skills, take on the role of leader and are accepted by everyone. Certain requirements have to be met to join the group and once they belong to it, they share sacrosanct secrets. Loyalty is the most important aspect and any betrayal is grounds for expulsion from or the breakup of the group.
Meeting places are established and the maximum desire of a gang will be to construct or fit out a txabola [hut] as a permanent meeting place, where to share secrets and shelter on rainy days.
Inevitably, the traditional children’s society was divided into groups by sexes. Certain nuances can be made in this division of groups. The separation was usually rigid in the majority of rural villages. If a boy played with girls, he would be despised and considered to effeminate, marichica, and conversely, a girl who played boys’ games was considered a tomboy, marimutil in the Basque-speaking area and marichico or marimacho in the majority of the Spanish-speaking territory.
There were certain mixed girls and boys games in the charter towns and urban centres. Yet even in those centres, there were some activities that were forbidden to the other sex. In any event, the boys chose games mainly noted for showing strength in the form of jumping, racing, chasing, throwing and fighting, while the girls’ games were mainly sedentary where importance was given to skilfully handling items with their hands (knucklebones) or with their feet (hopscotch), along with other games with rhythmical movements or performances, along with languages.
Children’s society, in the same way as that of adults, is therefore an organised body. Ritual formulas such as the ones described below play a key role in its activities.
Swaps. Trukez truk
If a child receives an object from another one and the other child claims it back after some time, the first child replies by reciting a formula, whose shortest and most widespread version was found in Pipaón (A), Barakaldo, Durango, Getxo, Trapagaran (B) and Sangüesa (N); and which goes like this:
- Santa Rita, Rita,
- lo que se da no se quita.
- [You gave it to me, it’s mine now]
Findings. Gauzak aurkitu
When a child finds an object and suspects that it belongs to one of its friends, the child announces the finding without specifying what it is. The formula used for this announcement, found with slight variations in Apellániz, Salvatierra (A), Durango, Getxo, Trapagaran (B), Allo, Artajona and Tudela (N) is:
- Una cosa me he encontrado cuatro veces lo diré
- si no aparece el dueño para mí me la quedaré.
- [I have found something and I will say that four times/and if the owner does not appear, I will keep it]
When they hear this, the members of the group check their pockets to see if the object that has been found belongs to them. If nobody finds it is missing, the child who has found it will keep and once the formula has been said four or five times, the object cannot be claimed.
Ending and regaining friendship. Hasarreak eta konpontzeak
There is also a certain ritual when children fall out.
When a child of Bermeo (B) is angry with another child, the first says “Urrun da fitx” (literally “get away and it is over”) to end the relationship. It is similar to the Spanish expression “cruz y raya” (“I have had enough”). After saying these words, the child spits on the floor and rubs the saliva with the sole of its shoe. Sometimes, the other child answers “Betiko ta betiko”, which can be translated as “forever and ever”.
Then the two turn away from each other and each goes on their way.
Accepting rules. Arauak
During childhood, children particularly learn to abide by rules. Games usually start with a selection process during which the roles are distributed or the participation order is established. The first lesson to be learnt is to accept their fate.
The games are also regulated. Their rules are usually highly complex and envisage all possible situations.
These rules are accepted by everyone. Variations agreed by the group are often introduced, but do not usually affect the core of the game. Some of the variations can become permanent in the group or place and are passed on to the following generations. That explains the differences that can be seen in a same game from one neighbourhood to another, from one town or another or one region to another.
The games with rules are “the game” par excellence in childhood. They bring into play all the resources of the personality and require a great variety of objects to be used. The instruments used range from the most basic, such as orange skin, to other more complex ones, such as an iturri. Sometimes they do not need any instruments. There are games for large areas or for small spaces, for good weather and for rainy days. Some require skills, others strength. Others need both. There are games of chance and of language, along with ritual and magic, guessing, hiding and intellectual ones.
Children’s games have their own rules which are kept in the child’s memory and passed on verbally.
Commonly, when one of the participants believes that one of those rules has been broken, they show their disagreement by shouting: “arrenuncio” [I give up].
Childhood formulas. Haurren esaldiak
In general, children from their earliest age are seen to be sociable and the greatest variety of relations emerges with their peers and friends. Some regard playing, but most apply to all facets of coexistence.
Obviously, the way of addressing each other is very broad. There are basic, simple or complex structure; jokes or formal, however, they nearly always acquire a nearly liturgical aspect that is embodied in a small ritual formula.