Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sports

     Today was one of those days that can take a weeks worth of worry and extinguish it in one deep draught of sun-infused air.  The earth is waking up and the last traces of winter's chill are melting away as shades of green seep into the brown blanket left by autumn. It was my afternoon off today and that made it all the better.
     Karlye took advantage of my presence to escape the chaos of motherhood for a few hours and left me in charge of the house while she did whatever it is that women do at malls.  The two youngest munchkins were in their rooms, purportedly taking naps.  That left me and Josiah, our 4 year old alone for some rare one-on-one male bonding time.
     Jo immediately decided that today we would have a day of sports.  We would start with football he informed me.  He would be the "hutter" and I would throw him the ball.  It was wonderful.  We played one on one, four-year-old rules, no holds barred football.  He moved me to the top of the yard, near the house. He grabbed the green and black Nerf ball.  He squatted in front of me.  "Hut, Hut,...Hike!"  He spiked the ball into the ground and ran.  I then was instructed to run and grab the ball and then throw it to him.  It took several tries and some kind but constructive criticism before I managed to pass the ball properly (not to high, not too low, not too fast).  On the 4th or 5th attempt, I finally got it right and was rewarded with an ear-to-ear grin when he caught it and clutched it to his chest.  After 3 or for more successful passes, he took off running circles around me shouting, "Now tackle me." Both of is giggling, I chased him a couple of circuits around the swing set and then he sprinted for the fence, just before I caught him he threw the ball into the wooden planks and shouted "Touchdown!"  I tackled him anyway, actually it was more tickling than tackling.  Sure, it was a late hit, but he didn't call foul.
     Next was baseball.  He explained to me that in real baseball each guy got 3 chances.  I pitched the little plastic ball. He missed.  I pitched again, and smack the ball flew over my head. "Home run!" he shouted, "Now you have to hit me with the ball before I slide, Dad."  I chased after the ball and he ran zig-zags and figure 8's.  As I ran towards him, he slid to the ground.  "Safe" he declared,  "I made it to base."  His new position now became home plate and the same sequence was repeated a few more times.  When he missed 3 times, he told me he was out and now it was my turn. We went back and forth for a while.  There were no balls, just 3 chances.  All hits were home runs, unless he declared them fouls.  I was the best game of baseball ever.  The game ended abruptly when he declared, "Now basketball."
    In basketball, when the 4-year-old starts with the ball, he stands near the basket and dribbles 2 or 3 times, during which the parent must try to steal the ball. If the child manages to retain possession of the ball he then, holds it tightly to his chest and runs to the basket to shoot.  The parent can use any method to prevent the shot from going in including tickling the shooter.  There is a lot of laughing involved.  Once a basket is made, then Dad gets possession of the ball, and a new set of rules kicks in.  Now we are playing teams and my role is to let him run to the basket so that I can pass him the ball and he can make the layup.
     Now, I'm the kind of guy who hates the new way of playing team sports where no score is taken and everyone is the winner.  I think kids need to learn to win with dignity and lose with honor, but today was something different.  This wasn't competition, this was a moment of togetherness.  It was a chance for a four year old boy to teach a man 10 times his age to remember what it was like to be a child. With five children, I seldom get to spend this kind of time with just one of them.  Maybe I'm hoping too much, but I'd like to think that this is one of those memories we both can share, just between the two of us, far into the future.