September 25, 2003
Here is the tail-end of an email I received today about Quinton and football.
Give him time to be a kid, Rob. Adulthood comes all too soon and most often, all too painfully. Let him be to figure things out for himself,
Tall Dogs begin as short dogs--am I wrong?
All the best anyway--jb
JB wrote some nice things about life in general and kids in particular in the rest of that email. But he was writing from a different perspective than what I have witnessed myself. Here was my reply:
I just want to see Quinton be serious, JB. Football was MY game and I love it with a passion. Yeah, I got hurt playing it and some of those injuries still nag me today. You know what? IT WAS WORTH IT!
I just fear that the BC has put him in so many sports programs for so much of his life that he doesn't care about ANY of them anymore. He just goes through the motions because he is expected to.
I live in Soccer Mom Central, man. In a lot of ways, it's a goddam "keep up with the Jones'" frenzy about making a kid playing SOMETHING all the time. I
objected to it when I was married. The BC didn't like my objections. "All his friends do it, and he'll feel left out if he doesn't play soccer/baseball/basketball/wrestling/." And now football.
The fucking truth is, SHE would have felt outdone by the OTHER Soccer Moms if she just let Quinton play games he invented himself. That crap those
hormone-crazed moms do up here has very little to do with athletics. It has a lot to do with status, (I haul more kids! I bring more refreshments! I haul
all the neat equipment! I am more INVOLVED!) and that status doesn't involve "The Children." Like hens in a chicken coop, those bitches COMPETE for those titles much more fiercely than the kids play on whatever goddam field they are on that day.
JB, did you ever have a summer when you were a child, when the days out of school seemed to stretch farther than your eyes could see, and you did nothing but what YOU wanted to do until that time finally ran out? I know you did, because you're only a year younger than I am.
My son has never known that feeling. He's never had a summer like that in his life since he started school. And I believe that he missed something that I will treasure the rest of my life. I wonder how many soccer games he'll remember when he is 51 years old. I remember LOTS of totally unchoreographed days in the woods with my friends when we made our own adventures.
Look at it from MY perspective, JB.
My entire point is that he DOES NOT have time to be a kid. He's had a goddam part-time job on top of school since he was six years old. You know when he gets to be a kid? When he is with ME!
I let him. I really believe that he likes visiting with me for that reason. One thing the BC has not been able to program out of his head is his love for me.
When I got out of my... uh, "difficulties" two years ago, I still had a restraining order hanging over my head, so I had my brother call the house to see if I could visit with Quinton. I had not seen my son in 45 days, and he never returned a reply to the letters I wrote him every day. The BC said that she would speak with me and not call the sheriff.
"Can I pick up Quinton and take him over to Mom's house today? I'll bring him back at 6:00."
"What makes you think he WANTS to see you, Rob? He knows what you did and he knows where you've been. He is scared to death of you right now."
"Let me talk to him," I asked. (aside:"Quinton, it's your daddy. Do you want to talk to him?" I hear the phone rattle.)
"DADDEEEE! Are you gonna come see me? I've missed you a lot!" So much for the BC's opinion of my relationship with my son.
He was six years old at the time. I picked him up shortly thereafter and went over to mama's house. Quinton and I took a walk in the woods and I told him stories about tree-forts and adventures I had back there when I was just a little bit older than he was. We got rained on coming back to mama's and we ducked under an awning at Hesse Elementary to wait out the rain.
When it was over, we walked down the sidewalk on Old Montgomery road, and Quinton passed under a tree with low-hanging branches. "Hey, Quinton!" I said. "Want to see a dirty trick?"
"Sure," he replied. I grabbed a limb and shook the tree. He got soaked with raindrops. From there, all the way back to mama's house, he kept trying to play the same dirty trick on me. He'd find a tree where HE could reach a bottom limb and look down at the sidewalk. "Daddy, you really need to come look at THIS," he said, trying to lure me into the trap.
I would walk up, grab a limb he couldn't reach and shake the tree with him under it. Yeah, I wet his young ass AGAIN. "AW MAN!" he always said.
"You're dealing with a Tall Dog, son. A Tall Dog ain't easy to fool. You play with a Tall Dog, you get bit!"
That was a very good day. When we got back to mama's house, Quinton was soaking wet and I was dry. "If y'all got caught in the rain, why is Quinton wet and daddy dry?" mama asked.
I got bit by the Tall Dog," Quinton replied.
And the BC really thought that he would be afraid of me. That woman doesn't know anything about my relationship with my boy, even though a lot of it happened right under her nose. But I was never a soccer dad.
Therefore, I HAD to be a bad parent.
A good story. Old Montgomery Road, eh? Probably right near the Crumrine place. I used to go necking on that dirt road. People would ride up on horseback and scare hell out of you.
I'm dating a woman who's kids have a full schedule. In this case it's different, though, the KIDS are the ones who are asking to do all the activities, she would rather have the time to spend at home (not to mention the money it costs).
I wonder though, these overscheduled kids in the overscheduled families, are they going to learn the value of just laying on your back staring up at the sky and seeing what shapes are in the clouds? Is something precious being lost?
V-man, Old Montgomery Road is PAVED now, with houses from one end to the other. Times have changed the landscape.
The problem is that these days everything is pre-pared, pre-planned and pre-packaged for kids. Some parents just don't understand that. Kids are supposed to get dirty, to get grass stains, get nicks and cuts and little bruises. Yes, they are supposed to break things. Thats just what kids do.
When's the last time you saw a kid digging for worms? Or chasing frogs and grabbing for lizards? I went to my sister's place the other day and my nephew asked me if I wanted to play football.
"Sure," I said. So I went out to the yard and waited. Then waited some more.
I get tired of waiting and go back in and he's sitting in front of the TV playing, of course, football.
"Where were you," he says. "I'm already up by 2 touchdowns."
Val, I'll tell you where you can find kids running the woods and catching frogs, beetles, lizards and butterflys. MY HOUSE, every other weekend.
I am proud of that fact, too.
I told you that you're the reason he gets to be a kid.
Never fall prey to the idea that being overbooked and overscheduled is a good thing. It only makes sense to (some) adults.
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