The Battle of Ordinary Things

M-ito had been bugging me for two weeks to play. He’d been preparing his forces all that time, wandering into his room and organizing. I told him today was the day. “Mom-ita,” I asked. “Can we play on the table before dinner?” She gave me the thumbs up.

I had 14 paperclips, an eyeglass case, a small roll of plumbers tape, a circular paperclip, a clay flute, and a small plastic box. That was my army of ordinary things. M-ito had a pull cord from the cieling fan, a portable vegetable steamer, a small scope breath spray, a USB flash drive, two rubber ducks with pens for weapons, two plastic chip clips, a foam pad, a rubber band, and a smasher k’nex structure built specially for its ability to immobilize opponents through the use of its frozen hammer fist.

The table was covered with our forces. The right flank met the left flank. Dice were rolled, one for each attack. A 5 or 6 hit and a 4,5 or 6 saved against each hit. Objects tool anywhere from 1 to 10 hits each. M-ito’s hands always seemed to be filled with two times the number of dice I had. “I’m making up the game,” he said, when I rolled one eye up questioningly after he pulled out 18 dice to attack me with. I made him stick to the rules he made up after that, like when he tried to charge with his pull-cord twice in one turn. “Only once,” I said and though he pouted for a second we continued without further protest. An attack by a chip clip on my rear was defended against and repulsed by a troop of paperclips. Then my paperclip forces crumbled in the center as my box and flute ran away after my general was defeated by the frozen hammer fist.

Just in time for dinner.

The Contact in Contact Sports

I asked my friend, Big A (father of Little A), to put on a small lacrosse workshop for M-ito and a few of his friends. It was supposed to be an informal afternoon of learning the basics and maybe a little game playing. Big A played in college, was the captain of his team and coached when he got hurt. As he would say, “I wasn’t very good, there were a lot of others way better than me.” Sure, Big A. Sure.

Five kids and three parents with lacrosse sticks and Big A in the lead at Mik-ito’s house out on the Island. He’s got a good size yard and two goals so we went out there to practice. The rain held off. M-ito got frustrated after about a half an hour because one of his friends kept stealing the ball from him when they were supposed to be having a catch. I didn’t see it coming. Tears came to his eyes and he melted down. After we figured out what had happened the drills went on and then we played a game. There wasn’t supposed to be any stick checking (we had no pads and no gloves so that made sense). We should have made it the kids against the adults. That would have been a good idea but I didn’t think of it at the time, and neither did the other dads. Big A refereed and after another half an hour of play M-ito, in a scuffle to get the ball with sticks hacking at it on the ground, got hit in the shin and nose and went down in tears again.

There are so many parts to this experience that were both good and bad for my son. The good thing is these things happened with his friends and not at his first day of lacrosse camp with some strangers whacking him . The bad thing it they happened with his friends and he doesn’t understand why they hit him. I told him they didn’t do it on purpose, they were just going for the ball and got carried away. My son has never played a contact sport before and there is a certain energy to them, a certain amount of testosterone that gets plugged into the equation that helps things like this happen. I played until when I was seven, full pads (because my brother played and I wanted to do everything he did – go figure), tackle. I remember getting upset at the violence and being scared much of the time. It took me three years to get my footing with the idea that I was going to hit people and they were going to hit me – tackle and be tackled, block and be blocked. It took me that long to trust the pads to protect me and to find allow myself to use aggression in my game. One year I quit because the coach was a maniac and I developed twitches because he used to have us do tackling drills that were like gladiator fights with everyone watching (not the first time or the last I’d play those kinds of games with coaches). I played eleven years of football through the end of high school.

So I sat next to M-ito on our friend’s couch with Mom-ita on the other side as he cried and let the intensity of the experience run through him. It raged then settled and a rain came down outside that mirrored the tears falling inside and ended the game just in time. My son has not learned to be aggressive in sports yet, and he is only just learning to get his sense of this game called lacrosse. For that matter I’m learning how it’s played too. Team sports are good vehicles in which to learn about aggression and assertiveness, using your temper in constructive ways to play better but still within the confines of the rules and without hurting anyone. He started down that road today. Man it’s hard to watch.

What I noticed about my son’s lacrosse game is that he passed the ball when his friends did not – one pass to me scored us a goal. After running forward he stopped when he was cut off and looked to pass the ball to his team-mates. He played a good defensive game, covering well. He just hadn’t counted on getting hit in the face and shin. Maybe the shin was okay but the face was a surprise. One thing he doesn’t need is a nose like his Dad-dito’s. Mine’s been broken twelve times (once by a doctor so it could be pushed back into place from the far left side of my face back into the center – that was ugly).

I wonder how he’ll do in three weeks when he starts lacrosse camp. He’ll be helmeted and padded up so the knocks won’t be felt so much. Gloves will help. I hope the coaches are good and teach the kids to be good sports. I’m going the first day in any case so I can watch over the experience, and pick up the pieces if need be. I’m proud of him in any case for trying something new and different and for learning something about himself in the process.

Pegged – A definition

“Pegged” (def) noun – hitting a player as they are running towards a base in baseball or kickball. When used with in a baseball it is hoped that the ball being used is soft (foam) and not a hard-ball – otherwise injuries will follow…

“You can peg him with the ball to make him out.”

or

“Peg-him!”

or

“You’ve been pegged!”

Two Hand Touch

M-ito and his friend K-ito wanted to learn how to play football. M-ito knew nothing about the game and K-ito had a smattering of phrases and terms but no real knowledge of the game. I played eleven years of ball through high school. I figured, how hard could it be? We were at K-ito’s home with a bar-b-q in the backyard heating up, Mom-ita with K-ito’s mom and friends socializingj. M-ito, K-ito and me were in the large front yard (large enough for a game of nerf football) and the boys told me their desire.

“How do you play? The rules,” K-ito asked.

“Yeah,” M-ito added lowering his head. “I don’t know how to play. It’s confusing.”

I took the nerf in hand and tried to explain. “That big tree over there in line with that bush over there, that’s where you want to run the ball into. That’s your end zone where you score a touchdown.”

“Then do you kick the ball?” K-ito asked.

“For extra points, but we won’t do that here. We’ll keep it simple. You run the ball in there you get a point and we’ll play to five.”

“Don’t you get points if you hit the tree with a kick? You know the things that stand up in the air…”

“The goal posts?”

“Yeah. The goal posts.”

“We’ll forget about them for the moment. Just run the ball into the end zone.”

“Then,” Kenny added, “you have to throw the ball onto the ground like this.” He spiked the ball and raised his hands up into the air.

“Okay. We’ll use that. And you’ll have 4 downs -”

“Downs?” M-ito asked.

“Tries, to get the ball into the end zone for a touchdown or a score. Four tires and then I get the ball and try to get into the other end zone, between the pitchback and the bush over there.”

They both nodded but didn’t seem to understand.

“We’ll play touch with two hands,” K-ito said, then demonstrated the technique.

“Right. No tackle. Just two-hand-touch.”

“What’s that mean?” M-ito asked.

“When you’re touched with two hands you’re down and have to stop and try again. You can pass the ball forward but you have to catch it or it’s an incomplete pass.”

“Why?” M-ito asked.

“I don’t know. It’s just the rules.”

“Can we play it’s okay to miss and still score?”

“You mean drop the ball?”

M-ito nodded.

“Sure.”

I tried to explain a lateral pass but that didn’t go anywhere so we just kicked off and started.

Sometimes it’s best to just play. It was them against me. Every time we scored we spiked the ball. They allowed me to pass to myself. I taught them the faint and the juke – fake left run right, fake right run left. We got bit up by mosquitos and collected a few grass burns on our knees. Another dad helped me out later and each of the two games the Dad-ditos lost exactly 5 points to 4.

PDAs in School

My son gave me a hug today. It’s not that we don’t hug – we do. We’re a hugging family. But it was unexpected because it – the hug – occurred at M-ito’s school.

These days when I drop him off at school, which is only one day a week as the norm, he presents me with the top of his head, tenses his shoulders as if it will be painful, then let’s me kiss him goodbye in the hall to the common room where his schoolmates await him.I places his hand up in front of me like a crossing guard to say, “Here no further.” It’s written all over him. Here no further, please.

But today I worked from the Starbucks near his school so I could take him in and Mom-ita could work out of the house (as a mom she’s always working in the house). I came back after two hours for the first day of Hannaka celebration. M-ito was supposed to light one of the candles of the minora along with a group of his Jewish classmates at their weekly assembly. I was so proud of him. He saw me in the audience and waved a small wave along with a smile. Then after it was all over and the rest of the kids had gone except for his grade, he ran over to me to give me a gave me a big hug.

I’m still smiling.

Follow-up to Poop, Pee, and Destruction

I told M-ito he couldn’t sing the Barney song anymore. We went to lay badmitton at the park and were resting in the sun after an hour of swatting birdies at each other, most of the time missing and laughing. No more stabbing, or cutting off heads, or crushing the purple dinosaur in song. He took it with a nod of his head. Okay.

Mom-ita added on the banning of the Monkey song – which went something like this: I had to pee. I couldn’t find a tree. So I peed on a monkey and the monkey cursed me. She said this in the car a few hours later. He argued it a little but gave in quickly. Mom-ita’s word is law.

My idea of just letting the two boys get this out of their systems in the first five minutes of the car ride just didn’t feel right. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. But not in execution. You got to trust your gut. Some of their wordplay I do find funny (a problem in and of itself). I’m a sucker for toilet humor and slapstick. Still it doesn’t feel right to hear it come for 7 and 8 year olds. So much of a 7 year old’s world is about these kinds of things. Violent slapstick can be funny. Toilet humor always big for belly laughs. But when is it okay for them to repeat it or make it up themselves? My gut told me to stop it. Mom-ita took action way before I’d taken mine. That moment in the car brought me up to speed. No more monkey song. Now the decision is easy. In order to stay in line with what Mom-ita has decreed (No toilet humor or violence) I’ll just say no. I can’t wait to try this out this week when I drive M-ito to school. Gulp. Oh the trials of fatherhood.

Rush Hour

It came in like a spring wind. A small black playing board with plastic cars, trucks and busses on it – and an ice cream truck – for whom the whole purpose of the game was to get it unstuck from a traffic jam. The game was called Rush Hour and it had been months since M-ito brought it out of his room to play. What I liked about the game – a traffic jam puzzle – was that it was portable (ie: fit in my bag of tricks backpack), that I could play too (the expert level games where indeed challenging), and that, well, the game looked cool. For one week last year it was all M-ito played, everywhere we went. Then he’d had enough and moved on to another game. Rush Hour became obsolete. 

Yesterday I pulled it out, because M-ito had mentioned it while talking about iphone games and he reminded us how much he liked the Rush Hour game. Excited, I brought it to coffee this morning, on the last day of school, and two of M-ito’s friends enjoyed playing it while they waited with the adults for their party to start. I started giving them hints and then had to stop myself because they were enjoying themselves without me. After the festivities were over and we were again home, I asked M-ito if he wanted to play. 

“No,” was all he said.

“But,” I began.

“No, Dad-dito, I don’t like that game anymore.”

My mouth hung open and I caught some flies for a few moments. 

But I’m not done with the game yet, I said to myself. I still want to play.

The problem is I like games, a great quality for a Dad-dito to have. It means when Candyland comes out, I play. The same goes for Star Wars Monopoly, Operation, Zooreka, and Zooloretto. And I like all kinds of games, including card games and board games. I don’t mind losing to M-ito most of the time (I have to win every once in a while just to keep him honest), reading the instructions to new games, explaining the rules to him, and looking for new games he might (and I might) like. And M-ito likes games too – he loves them, but he usually loves a game for anywhere from one day to a few months. Then the love affair is over. And I’m left with a hankering to play a game without a partner. 

But I’m not done yet.

So it goes.