Monday, July 1, 2019

One Good Deed


My son can be stubborn about things. He can be rude, temperamental, irrational. He throws fits, rolls his eyes, gets himself in trouble. He can be a real six-year old at times. 

It can get frustrating, these battles. Not giving into his demands and standing up to a tyrant. I often remind him he’s not the boss.

When it comes to parenting, I do a lot of things wrong. I’m aware of that. This blog is more of a journal than a how-to guide. Then again, I do some things right.  And I’m always trying. It’s never a lack of effort that is lacking on my end.

As I’ve posted, he’s big into football. I mean, he's really into football. Every weekend for the past oh, two months now, he’s up and ready, in full football gear, ready to go to hit the field. This is our thing, and it shows no signs of waning. These days he likes to wear the gear: shoulder pads, helmet, he’s even got a mouthpiece. He likes to tuck in his jersey and hit the football field looking like a pro.  

*On a side note, if you’ve never played one-on-one football on a 100-yard field on a late June afternoon in Virginia, consider yourself lucky. Or, if you’re one of those cross fitters, add it to your regiment.

Leaving the gridiron on Saturday, we were sweaty and flushed. I suggested we get an early start on Sunday, being that it was 92 degrees and all. He agreed, so much so that by 9am on Sunday he was fully dressed in a helmet and shoulder pads, mumbling “Dad, are you ready?” through his mouthpiece.
“It was your idea,” my wife reminded me. And it was. So after slugging down two cups of coffee, we hit the high school field ready for action.

It was nice, though. Bright, quiet, the heat not yet taking hold on the day. We did some warm-ups, ran a few drills, then it was all business. After our game, I found myself sprinting a 40-yard dash. Bent over and heaving, Simon encouraged me. “Dad, you run like a teenager.” That was all it took. I found myself lining up and doing it again. I think motivational speaking is in that kid’s future.

After an hour and a half, he still wasn't ready to leave. I was, and this set off a fit. He had no problems letting me know just how unappreciative he was of his parents who’d just dropped everything on a Sunday morning so that he could play football. He wanted to continue kicking field goals. We had chores to do.

So he lashed out. And he got consequences. Later, when he pulled himself together, we went to the pool (because, you know, 92 degrees).

Redemption came at the pool. We were tossing the football when a group of kids wandered over and wanted in on the action. I took turns throwing it to each kid, but when I went to throw it to the youngest boy, maybe four, the others waived him off, “Oh, he can’t throw.”

I tossed the ball back to Simon, dunked myself underwater. When I came up, I saw something I won’t soon forget. My kid approaching the other kids, moving past the older kids and holding the football out to the little boy, the one who, “Couldn’t throw.”

Imagine my surprise, watching my son help this boy put his fingers on the laces, then going through the motions of throwing the football.

The boy tossed the ball to me. I told him he did great. Then I looked at my son, who was beaming with pride. And all I could think was how maybe I am doing something right.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Goooooaaaaaal!


For three years now Simon has been playing soccer. It’s not on the top of his list, but it gets him out and he likes playing the games. Last year we discovered he was kind of a natural goalie, the kid who’s not afraid to get down and dirty and stop the ball with his face.

At times he was sort of lost out there on the field (I know I was), but at six he’s able to turn the ball around and kick it in the right direction. But still, I never really thought he’d be score, I always hoped maybe the ball would ricochet off his foot and go in.

I know, scoring and winning and all that doesn’t matter so much, having fun, right?

Right.

But.

Saturday, it happened.

Let me set the table here. He’d already been in the game and come out. He’d watched from the sidelines, hair sweaty, eyes sharp, totally focused. He lay on his stomach and took in the action while his teammates laughed and joked and pretended to be babies. They stuffed grass down each other's shirts and otherwise behaved like a bunch of six-year-olds. Usually, this was my kid. Never one to miss a joke, most game days he could be found in the middle of the horseplay. Last year he liked to pick dandelions and wander off in search of flowers. But not on Saturday. On Saturday, Simon was homed in. 

Something was different.

When his coach turned and told him he was going in, he was up and ready. Back in action, he began with the normal routine, dancing around the herd of kids, testing the waters with his toes but not fully getting involved. The coach had gotten on him about not crowding his teammates, and so I watched in awe as he took the coaches advice and broke down the field (pitch? I’m not up on my soccer terms), And he was still breaking towards the goal when the ball hit him in the waist and sort of rolled down his leg.

Wait. I stood up as he made the adjustment, getting his foot under the ball just as the defenders closed in. He kicked. I leaned forward. The little soccer ball shot towards the goal. The goalie reacted late, just as the ball rolled through the goal.  

Whoa. He just scored a goal.

His face, though, just after he watched it go in. Awe, disbelief, a flush of excitement found his cheeks and then he looked over to me.

Yep, kid, you did it.

And who cares if it hadn’t happened. These kids are five and six years old. That said, he’d been going to these games, practices, watching all his teammates score. So to see it happen for him was pretty damn remarkable.



Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Super Tecmo Madness


We’ve all heard the dangers of too much screen time for children. TV, tablets, phones and game systems. How often do you see kids (or adults) zoning out with a phone in their hands.

At our house, we’re hyper-vigilant about this sort of thing. But then again, we’re not.

We don’t let our kid play on our phones. If you do that’s cool, we just don’t. In fact, I make a conscious effort not to be on the phone in front of my kid. I don’t even have it on me when we’re together. Why would I? What am I missing? A post, some terrible news? A witty comment on Twitter? Nah, I’m good.

Okay, so what do we allow? Well, glad you asked. The short answer?
Tecmo Bowl.

Yeah, that’s right. It’s actually Super Tecmo Bowl, released in 1991. When I took on my new job s a computer technician, I started tinkering with my old one in the basement. Simon and I would take out RAM, the harddrive, simple stuff he enjoyed doing. I taught him how to change and create passwords, profiles, set screen protectors and backgrounds. We’d pretend I was a new guy at the job and he’d help me get logged in. What can I say, we’re dorks.

Then one day he noticed an emulator on the desktop. “Dad, what’s that?”

“Oh, that’s,” I couldn’t control myself. I fired the thing up and began. “So look, this is how you play Super Tecmo Bowl on the computer. It's actually a rigged up 2013 version of the classic, and I had to teach him how to use the keyboard as a controller. I figured he’d play it for five minutes and that would be the end of it.

Not what happened.

As it happened, my son fell in love with one Ray Lewis. He's walking around in a 52 jersey, baffling kids and confusing adults, probably wondering why a six-year old is going on about a guy who retired five years ago.  

And not just that. The kid loves defense. We hang in the basement, on this old Windows Vista computer. He plays D and I play offense. He started asking football questions. I taught him about the downs, punting, special teams and reading a defense. And I have to say, I never realized just how complex the game of American Football actually is until I tried explaining the difference between a field goal, extra point, safety kick, punt, and a regular kick-off to a six-year old.

Believe it or not, it’s quality time. We go outside and play football, running pass routes and reenacting Super Tecmo Bowl. Imagine my neighbors, watching us act out a video game football contest, my son stating the physical conditions (excellent, good, average, bad) of each player before each play.

Now he’s learned football. Heck, he could coach football. He can read a zone defense and blitz schemes. He can count by sevens. He can read all sorts of variations of names.

He can play offense now. He can work a keyboard, because in the old edition you have to use a keyboard instead of the controllers.

The only probable is that all of his favorite players are retired.

And one last thing that’s come out of this. So, he really likes Ray Lewis. When I liked athletes back in the eighties, I had him write out a note, asking for his autograph. We’ve mailed it off with a self-addressed return envelope. I chuckle, thinking about Ray Lewis, opening my son’s letter, finding out he’s still someone’s favorite player.

Now we wait, and I really hope it works out because it will be cool for him to see the power of the pen.




Monday, April 1, 2019

Defensive


I grew up playing basketball. We walked down to the park every day. Four or five of us, joking and laughing, chasing down the ball when someone dribbled off their foot. At the court, you had to wait your turn. First, watching the older guys play, waiting to get our chance. Once on the court it was time to prove you could play. You know the story.

There were no parents on those courts. No refs, nobody to make sure everything was fair. Some kids were nicer than others. It’s life.

Now six, my son has taken a sudden interest in basketball and football. Sports is something I’ve never pushed on him. In fact, I’ve always liked his engineer like mind. When he started playing soccer last year I laughed because the coach was telling the kids to be aggressive, to fight for the ball, when most of them only wanted to pick dandelions.

But right now, it’s all about ball. And the adjustable basketball goal that’s been sitting at the end of our street is getting some use. Rain? Let’s go play basketball. It doesn’t matter.

I love it, I teach him what I can, only what coaching he wants to take. I never push because again, it’s not important. I’m just happy to be spending some time outside with my kid.

So yesterday he invited the kids down the street to join. Brother and sister, eleven and eight. Two on two. We had ourselves a game. 

My first mistake was agreeing to be on teams with my kid. We usually play against each other. That way I can control—yes control—the situation. But this was different. It wasn't long before we found ourselves in a clash with this formidable brother/sister combo. And while it began fun, Simon playing defense and laughing, it soon became something else. Something too much for him.

The eleven-year-old boy, doing what eleven-year-old boys do I suppose, decided he wanted to come out and double team the little guy.

They pressed. They stole the ball. The eleven-year old blocked and blocked and blocked Simon’s shot. I directed things the best I could, set some picks and worked to get him open, but after a while it got old. I’d had enough.

So I did what all mature adults would do. I gave him a dose of his medicine.


I blocked the big kid's shot, twice. Maybe three times. Any time he decided he would take the ball from a six-year old, I did the same to him. Okay, not quite, but enough to get the point across. I mean, come on, the kid was double his size. And maybe I'd had a bit too much March Madness but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.  

The game ended. I gave my kid a pat on the back. I was proud of him, but I could see how upset he was.

I tried to explain how it would help him, playing against bigger kids. He gathered up his bike and helmet and nodded. But he was upset. And again, I realize it’s okay to lose and be upset, trust me. I can't always be there to guard the rim. He'll have to learn on his own how to deal with jerks, adversity, failure. And I can’t come down and remove every obstacle in his path. 

But he's six. And we are teammates, after all. So while I’m not proud of what I did, I'm not exactly ashamed. Besides, in a few years, when he's eleven, he'd better do the same for me because I'm going to need some help down low. He'll be the one protecting the rim. 

I'm getting too old for this...