Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Game Ends when Someone Cries

My previous post discussed the ins and outs of boys’ inherent desire – almost obsessive need – to wrestle. What it did not discuss was what usually ends a bought of wrestling, and that is a scream-inducing, ear-splitting, end of all things injury. Injuries are not just the end to wrestling. They are the end to all games that my boys enjoy most and don’t involve sitting peacefully or playing peacefully or talking peacefully or peace, period.

There is usually no way for me to stop a "game" prior to the injury occurring (believe me, I have tried), and I hear myself saying “You’re going to get hurt. You’re going to get hurt,” over and over again. I read once, in one of the many child care books or magazines I poured over in the early days of my oldest son's life, that constantly telling your child to “Be careful,” or “You’re going to get hurt,” undermines his confidence and makes him believe that he can’t accomplish what he’s trying to do without getting hurt. I wonder now, did the author of that statement have boys? Because my boys accomplish what they are trying to do while getting hurt once, if not several, times a day and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Not even memory of the last injury, which may have just occurred 30 seconds ago with the goose egg still prominent on the forehead to prove it, stops them from getting hurt.

Let me interject that I know that this is not just a problem with boys. My sister and I wrestled with my dad night after night, and one of us – my sister or me, not my dad – always ended up crying. And my mom would look at my dad with her angry look and shake her head as she comforted us as if to say, “I told you so,” and “You should know better.” But he didn’t know better! He’s a boy! That’s the point. I’m sure if I had a mirror at those times when my boys get injured, the times when my husband is deeply entrenched in the current “game,” I would wonder when my mother arrived at my house and why she was wearing my clothes. Should my husband know better? That each game of pelt-ball or wrestle or dark chase or football tackle is going to end in tears? Of course he should know, and he does. He is just a boy at heart, and my other boys love him for it.

Since I can’t stop the injuries from occurring when Daddy is involved in the game (the boys like to remind me that he is the boss of us all), you’d think I would have some luck stopping the games before injuries occur when it is just Jack and Luke playing. I am probably successful at that 2% of the time, and it usually involves some sort of bribery as threats never work. But one day, we had been on a long flight from Denver to St. Louis by way of Dallas. We were at the baggage carousel waiting for bags, which adds another 30 minutes to an already waaaayyyy too long travel experience. Our kids had been cooped up on a plane with soda and candy for hours, and were running around the baggage carousel like prisoners on furlough. In these situations, my husband sometimes hits me with a common male-dominated household ailment (MDHA) I like to call the Sergeant Schultz, or the "I see nothing, nothing!" As I tried to ignore the sympathetic, and not so, glances from fellow waiters as my kids ran in warp speed circles around me, I blurted, “The first one of you to get hurt has to go into timeout!” Well, that stopped them in their tracks. I could read the confusion on their faces. The hurt one will go into timeout? Not the one that caused the hurt? That tactic got us 15 minutes of peace during the boys’ quiet contemplation, long enough for our bags to come and us to begin our trek to the car. But, peace is fleeting and the candy buzz kicked in once again. Before we could make it to the car, Luke, my 4 year old, was hurt. And Jack, my 6 year old and stickler for the rules when he wasn’t the one in trouble, promptly reminded me that Luke had to go into timeout for getting hurt. So, I loaded them both into the car and took a timeout myself, deep in the back of the quiet solitude of my brain.

I congratulated myself on coming so close to solving an age-old MDHA – how to stop the game before someone gets hurt. I still throw that one out there every once in a while, and even follow-up on it occasionally. The most it gets me now is a 30 second break in the action while the boys weigh the risk of getting hurt vs. the benefit of stopping and not going into timeout. As with most boys, risk always wins out.

1 comment:

the O'Neills said...

Other MDHA's I'd love to see you write about -
1) Super Hero Infatuation
2) The need for jumps/ramps/obstacles in order to have fun on a moving recreational toy (bike, scooter, skateboard, roller blades, ice skates)
3) Throwing Rocks - this can be summed up in one experience I had recently - we were at a park near a river bank with some friends - some with boys and some with girls. In order to alleviate the battle that usually follows the "we are leaving in five minutes" announcement, I promised to let my two boys throw rocks into the river for 15 minutes before leaving. Gavin ran to the river followed by Grant and a friend, Jack. While Gavin was giving Jack pointers on the proper wind up to gain distance and Grant was grunting with each rock thinking it would help with distance, Callie saw us from the playground. She ran over and began throwing rocks into the river as well, apparently assuming this would put her in the club, or possibly just to see what all the hype was about. After about 4 good throws, she looked at me with a rock in her hand and said, "Why are we doing this again?" I just laughed and said, "because they're boys, sweetie." She dropped her rock and skipped off, obviously catching on pretty quickly to the MDHA symptom and wanting to steer clear of it, lest it be contagious and rock-throwing actually become entertaining.
4)attraction to mud and water puddles - like magnetic pull to the North - it can't be avoided.