Return to the Playground

When the boys were little, we spent many mornings at the park. It’s where I made my first friends in our then-new hometown. So, it was a little strange when, after not going for a few years, my ten-year-old son and niece veered in while walking the dog.

They climbed, “Count how long it takes me!”…

…and swung, “Come on! Higher!”…

…and spun each other around, “Faster! Faster! No, stop! Stop! Stop!”…

The dog and I followed the path encircling the playground equipment. It brought back  memories of trailing my sons on their tricycles as they rode along that same path. Of moving from one side of the playground to the other, as they did, to make sure I was close enough in case they fell, got stuck, got their feelings hurt. Of standing, eating cold green grapes, next to the big tree they all loved to climb.

I walk past the park almost daily, but a ten-year-old body at play makes the playground look a miniature version of the one in my memory. Had my teenagers been with us, I imagine it would have seemed even smaller. You can get anywhere in a few quick steps. See everything from any bench.

Apparently, I didn’t need to follow so close back then. It would never dawn on me now to interrupt their play with “Not so fast!” “Not too far!” “Don’t jump off that…”

So, as the dog and I wandered, they happily climbed and swung and spun and squealed at each other.

And when we got home, my ten-year-old threw up all over the carpet. Too much spinning, but still the best part of his day.

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What Are Little Boys Made Of?

What are little boys made of?

Snips and snails

And puppy-dogs’ tails

That’s what little boys are made of.

But what happens to them when they play golf?!

I recently took up golf and started playing an occasional nine holes with my family. I love being outside with them, playing, enjoying the sunshine. My goal is to hit the ball when I swing, sometimes hit it 100 yards and straight, but mostly just spend a few hours with my boys.

But golf does something to them.

When they are playing well, they are like puppy dogs’ tails. Wagging. Giddy. Confident. Fun.

That’s what little boys are made of.

But when they are playing poorly, which in our family games, merely means I have a slim chance of closing in, they turn into slugs and snails and sops who wail…

…and throw their clubs, and cry and beat themselves up.

No other sport or activity has this strange power over them. And I just want to play!

So apparently, after 13 years as a mother of boys, I must still learn…

… what are little boys made of… when they play golf?

“I’m Sad,” He Said

He was supposed to be asleep. 10:30pm. Ski school in the morning after a busy week. His older brothers had been out for over an hour.

“Mom,” he said, dragging his tired little body into the dining room. “I’m sad.”

He is not one to hide his feelings.

So at 10:30, when he should have been sleeping, we snuggled into my bed and had a long talk. “Sometimes my friends are my friends. And sometimes they aren’t.”

With three boys, I have learned that such conversations always end up at recess football. Who did, or did not, pick him for their team that day.

“They are all your friends,” I said. “They love you.”

“But sometimes they are nice to me, and sometimes they aren’t. They act like I’m not their friend… like in football today…”

…as predicted.

“Well, is there anyone who you always trust to be nice no matter what?”

“Well…. Yes.”

“Then that’s who we need to invite over to play as soon as we can.”

He smiled and fell immediately to sleep.

1980s Girl Ping-Pong Champ Rises Again

Many years ago, at a small summer swim club, an unassuming teenage girl learned to play Ping-Pong. She wasn’t an athlete. Rarely earned a ribbon at a swim meet. Was known for getting out her aggressions on the tennis backboard, but never played against a single, real foe.

Then one fine summer, she dominated at the Ping-Pong table. In fact, that year, she was proclaimed “girl champ.” Top of her game.

A fine summer indeed.

Today, nearly a quarter of a century later, that champion found three new foes – tough and agile at 6, 10 and 11.

The six-year-old played her first. He added rules in-play. He threw all he had at her. Even saw things that might not have happened. Added imagined points. But the champ held on.

The ten-year-old tried his slams on her. Tricked her with crazy serves that spun. Laughed to disarm her. But the champ held on.

Then, as the eleven-year-old battled fiercely in a two-point match all the way to the finish, she revealed, “Well, I was the girl Ping-Pong champ at my pool when I was a kid.”

“Well that explains it,” he said, relieved.

“You never told us!” said the ten-year-old, suddenly reconsidering his recent loss. Not too shabby when it’s against the champ, eh?

And when that 11-year-old shook the champion’s hand, conceding a narrow defeat, he said, “It’s okay, mom. I had a good swim meet today. I am still in a really good mood.”

“Me too.” It looks like another fine summer lies before us.

How We Talk about Sports

When most families talk about taking up a new sport, I assume that the child expresses an interest or starts playing the game on their own, with friends, with a sibling. He or she begs to join a team.

That’s not exactly how it works at my house.

Recently, our ten year old told his Dad that he wanted to try lacrosse. Dad went and bought him a lacrosse stick, and they have been playing together in the front yard. My son now watches lacrosse on television with me (I tremendously enjoyed warming the bench throughout high school) and asks lots of questions about the rules. He is studying the game. He is learning the players, the trivia, everything. He learns to “talk” a sport before he learns to play it (e.g., he learned his numbers by memorizing favorite baseball player numbers).

And then, even before he asked to join a team or bring his lacrosse stick to a friend’s house or purchase any other accouterments of the sport, he checked on this:

“Dad, do professional lacrosse players make a lot of money?”

“Nope.”

“Are you kidding? Everyone watches lacrosse! They must be rich!”

“You don’t play lacrosse for money. You play for fun.”

“Do they at least make as much as you do?” (speaking to a doctor)

“Not even…”

“That’s ridiculous.” You could see my son’s mind at work, weighing his professional prospects with picking up a new sport just for fun.

Our six year old, always listening, added his two cents, “That’s why I play baseball.”

But fun still trumps money at ten. He brought his lacrosse stick for the first time today to play with a friend.

Five Year Old in the Bathroom… Really!

The membership director walks a prospective member through the new game room at the country club. There’s a basketball hoop, air hockey, a flat screen television, indoor climbing things for toddlers and video games.

It’s the middle of the day before schools get out. Atypically quiet, except…

…for the 45-year old woman in a skirt with a toy rifle, shooting at barrels coming down a virtual waterfall. Bam! Bam! Bam!

Me.

I don’t try to explain. Bam! Bam! Bam!

But I imagine, “At our club, even our moms like to play!”

Image of the Day

My son’s friend, age 4, in a NASA costume and helmet, held a red sprinkled cookie in one hand. With his other, he took our soccer ball back from a group of older kids at the park.

He is a quiet little boy, so we do not what inspired him to go on his own to confront them. We did not hear how he convinced them to hand the ball over. It was a peaceful and seamless exchange. And with minimal fanfare, he handed the ball to my son.

“It’s your ball.”

I thought he was very brave.

His mother suspected they were thrown by the spacesuit.