Parenting? We’re just having a ball

I am probably the only parent in history who has requested a parent/teacher conference with the playground monitor.

Rules

Generally, I teach my children that their teachers make The Rules and that, just as in all walks of life, we don’t necessarily have to agree with them to abide by them. I call this the “don’t come crying to me” principle (or Principal, as the case may be).

So you don’t like the dress code? Too bad. Study harder and maybe you can be that one-in-a-million entrepreneur for whom “dressing for success” won’t matter in your chosen career.

The rest of us learned long ago that we would spend the better part of our lives wearing clothes that aren’t our first choice. Expressing yourself is for millionaires and the homeless. Get used to it.

So you think the assignments are stupid? Get in line, kid. If I had a nickel for every hour of my life spent toiling over paperwork that would essentially be glanced at only momentarily before being consigned to languish for eternity in a dark file, I’d be, if not rich, let’s just say “employed.”

In fact, I do have a nickel — or the nickel-equivalent of the then-wage — to show for it. Throughout your life you will be called upon to do things that seem “useless” and yes, even “boring.” You call that a waste of time. We call that “adulthood.”

Concern. My long-standing “go ahead and ask but don’t expect me to tell” policy aside, as the Concerned Mother I felt it was my duty to discuss the goings on at what I had wryly termed “Lord of the Flies Playground.”

Four square

This seemed necessary after months of breathless, daily reports from my son of the brutality on the Pro Four Square scene. Four Square is a popular playground game where a ball is bounced in the server’s own square and then hit into another player’s square.

The occupant of that square must then return the ball to any other player’s square by hitting or striking the ball with the hands.

Pro Four Square differs from “amateur Four Square,” I understand, because the speed and agility of the game causes all but the strongest players to crumble.

They also more apt to confuse “hands” with “faces.”

Naturally, when young, untamed testosterone is involved, more than once the game ends in a major skirmish or minor scuffle. As a result, throughout the school year, I had been treated to daily missives about the battles royal waged on the Four Square court.

In short, Pro Four Square differs from regular Four Square in one distinct way — the survival rate for the latter is much higher.

The ringleader

Naturally, I worried for my poor, shy darling’s safety.

Charged with the protection of innocence, I marched right up to that playground monitor, otherwise known as our very nice gym coach, prepared to give him a piece of my maternal mind!

“Are you the monitor in charge of Four Square?,” I inquired with a mama bear gleam in my eye.

Receiving confirmation, I introduced myself and proceeded to question the merits — and mindset — behind these hotly contested playground games.

What ever happened to playing just for fun, I implored?

What ever happened to a nice, harmless game of dodge ball, anyway?

At this point, his dawning realization of just who exactly my son was met with a beaming smile as he exclaimed with utter sincerity and delight, “Your son is the dark-haired boy right? That kid? Ma’am, he runs that game!”

Oh.

Deflated

I deflated like an overused Four Square ball. It’s amazing how quickly righteous indignation wanes when you discover that not only is your child not being victimized by overly competitive spirits, but also he is, in fact, the ringleader.

He also explained to me, with admirable patience, that all rules were obeyed, there was more drama than actual violence and, that in his opinion, the levels of competition were good for the children as a whole.

Nothing to see here; let’s keep moving along.

In fact, thanks to his careful tutelage, I now have a deeper understanding of pro versus “amateur” Four Square. (Not to mention a deeper understanding that all tales of the playground should be taken with a grain of salt — or an aspirin).

Parenting

I have since had a lovely conversation with my son about telling tales, taking responsibility and the general advisability of not winging playground balls at our playmate’s heads — even if such activity does fall under the heading of “acceptable game play” among the 6th grade powers that be.

This is particularly true if one is, in fact, the “power” and thus frighteningly well positioned to abuse his position. I explained that this is not the way to make friends and influence people.

It is, however, a good way to get a ball squarely to the head, at which point the “don’t come crying to me” will be brought into parenting-play.

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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