“I’m going crazy. We need to get out of here,” my wife Kara said as our two children rolled around on the floor like bear cubs fighting over a salmon.
“That’s my puck!” Evan yelled, grabbing at the clenched fist of his younger brother.
“No, mine!” Zack rebutted, clutching the small plastic disc from the little air hockey table that Santa, in his infinite wisdom, had given them for Christmas, back when they were on a different one of his lists. At the time, we thought that air hockey would be a great winter distraction, but it turns out that hockey, even the air kind, is an inherently violent sport. You never know when a fight is going to break out, or when you’ll need to check your opponent into the wall to get the puck back.
“ZAAAACK!” Evan screamed, seemingly in answer to the question: “Could you sum up, in one word, everything that is wrong with the universe?”
“We need to sign them up for something,” Kara said. Whenever the kids are going nuts in the house, our tiger parent tendencies start clawing their way out, and we talk about all the different activities we should be forcing the kids to participate in. I’d prefer to be koala parents, where we all just hang out peacefully in our eucalyptus tree, munching leaves and sleeping.
“There are ice skating lessons at the rink across town,” Kara mentioned, again. I’ve fended off the ice skating suggestion many times, because unless you’re Wayne Gretzky or Nancy Kerrigan, ice skating isn’t something you’re supposed to be good at. The fun/pain ratio just doesn’t justify it. Ice skating is something you do once a decade, when you need to be reminded that it hurts to slam various body parts onto a cold, hard surface. Then you drink some hot cider, spend the next decade forgetting how much it hurts, and the cycle begins anew.
“Tennis? Cub Scouts? Gymnastics?” Kara said.
“Evan’s already signed up for baseball in the spring,” I said, hesitant to sign up for too much now, just because it’s winter and everyone is bouncing, or body-checking, off the walls. Our free time is already at a premium, and when you start stacking up activities that require a weekly practice and a weekly game, multiplied by the number of children you’re responsible for keeping alive, you’re at risk of losing the essential quality time that you should be spending as a family, relaxed, on the couch, staring at your phones, barely aware of each other.
Sure, my parents carted me and my sister to a hundred different activities when we were kids, but it’s not a fair comparison. Back when my mom was taking me to tennis and trumpet lessons and my dad was coaching my basketball team, and my sister Amy was playing softball, basketball, piano, lacrosse, track, and cross country, and both of our parents were attending every game of every sport we ever played, parents didn’t have anything better to do. Facebook hadn’t been invented, either, so there was no point in doing cool stuff without your kids, because the only person you could impress with your selfies was the teenager developing your prints at the drug store.
For my generation, though, it’s totally different. Before having kids, we were regular people. We haven’t always been parents, like our parents were. We had interests and hobbies and friends and Netflix queues, so we can’t be expected to just give all that stuff up so that our kids can learn essential life skills.
But still, I can’t wait for Evan’s first baseball game. I’ll be sitting in the stands, cheering and munching eucalyptus leaves.
You can do a triple lutz with Mike Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.