Sunday, April 29, 2007

Like cat hair to black socks...are boys to a trampoline.

This week the boys in our house got a new toy...a trampoline. Long story, but we returned the Nintendo wii that they purchased with their own money, (taking advantage of a momentary lapse in my ability to distinguish good ideas from crap!) and they got to keep the cash while their dad bought them a trampoline. The monetary benefits helped ease their disappointment at the fact that yes, indeed, Mom HAS come to her senses after all.

What was I thinking people??! Sure, as far as video games go, the wii is "better", but what is that saying? So they have to get off the couch and move their arms's still is a magnet that tries daily to suck all the creative energy out of our family time. Evenings went from "quiet reading and talking time" to "Can we play now? How about now? PUUULEEEEAS!!!"

I read just days after we purchased it a quote by Dr DeMille that someone posted on a TJED group...."It is impossible to have a scholar in a home with video games".


Whether or not that belief is strictly true, it soon became clear that it would be quite true in our home. It created a black hole into which all the great ideas and curiosity, that have previously bounced so freely around in our home, immediately vanished .

I discovered something else. While video game systems are a magnet that attract, absorb and negate positive energy, trampolines also have a very powerful force field of their own. They attract boys. Who knew there were so many in our neighbourhood? Where did they come from? Did they exist before we bought the trampoline, or did they materialize spontaneously upon the addition of a bouncy surface to our back yard?

Boys I have never seen before showed up at our door with notes from their Mothers (or is that motherships?") saying "Travis/Justin/Whatcha-ma-callit has my permission to play on the trampoline."
I don't know who these people are! Levi plays a lot of street hockey, so he explains to me..."oh, he lives on the other side of the crescent", or..."he lives next door to Cory's friend's cousin" as if that explains the close personal connection these parents suddenly feel with me, entrusting me as they are, with the lives of their offspring, on a dangerous, (yes, I know) totally frowned upon by responsible pediatric orthopedic surgeons, instrument of mass destruction.

Or do they know of me from their kids as the one who's always home with my boys? The one who never has babysitters? Who doesn't allow my boys inside the homes, (or usually yards) of people I've never met? The "Homeschooler"? Do any of these facts preclude me from being irresponsible?

I don't really think they have given it any thought. I think they see the trampoline as a great asset to the neighbourhood, as a way for their kids to get exercise, and they send them here as an example of their total lack of cynicism.

They must actually trust another parent, a fellow adult, as being capable of using common sense to monitor the activities of all our children, and trust me as doing what's best for our kids. That is the kind of neighbourhood I want to live in, and that's what I want to believe about these parents.

And after being rather overwhelmed and overwrought at the realities of having the equivalent of an entire public school playground in my backyard as soon as the actual public school is dismissed every day, I must admit I am seeing the situation in a more favourable light. It's an opportunity to be a light, and to give, and to provide a safe (well, relatively) place for the kids to hang out where I can see them, hear them, and have some influence over them. They are respectful. (if not they know they will be asked to leave). They watch their language (Levi informed them all on their first visit that there is a "swear jar"...$2 per violation or they are asked to leave), and they have to be respectful of the younger, smaller boys.

It's amazing to watch the dynamics play out here. They worked out a system, based on a game they play with a couple of big balls, to all get a fair turn.
Two kids jump (no tricks, flips, or somersaults) and the others take turns rolling the big ball at their feet on the tramp. If they get "tagged" with the ball, they are out and the ball-roller is on. Another boy gets a chance to be a roller, and the game goes on. Eventually everyone gets a turn, some longer, some shorter, but as it's fair, and based on skill and luck. No one argues, no one whines, no one complains.

I find it fascinating! If I went out and tried to impose my idea of "fair" on them, I'd be sitting with a stopwatch, arguing seconds, trying to compensate for those who's dismounts are slower etc.

Their system works much better! I am very proud to say that Josh and Levi have not tried to pull rank as owners, and make the others subject to pettiness or tyranny. They respect the rules as somewhat sacred, and all are subject to this unwritten law...fair's fair.

I watch from a few yards away, through the kitchen window, where I'm usually preparing supper while the backyard teems with sweaty, healthy boys. There may yet be a broken bone or two. I hope and pray no one has a litigious disposition if another's child gets hurt. But what price can I put on this opportunity to allow these boys to learn to govern themselves and get in this much innocent, healthy entertainment?


Karyn/Mom said...

you are so wise, my friend. I totally agree with you about video games! Or computer games, for that matter! Keep them at bay as long as possible.

Trampolines, on the other hand, are a wonderful invention. It is fun to see the myriad of games they make up in order to play together on a (basically) one person toy.

My little girls go straight to the tramp as soon as they get to my house.

My big kids don't play on it anymore unless they can use the girls as an excuse to be on it, but I wouldn't get rid of it.

All the flips, tricks, and somersaults that have been done on my tramp and there have been no broken bones. Sometimes I was sure Andrew was going to break his neck, but no injuries.

What a great opportunity to at least meet the boys in the neighborhood! (although I must admit that I'm glad we never had a tramp in town) You never know, the boys may develop worthwhile, lasting friendships because of the trampoline!

Vanessa said...

Interesting...we were never allowed to have a trampoline, but we were allowed to play video games...maybe it was different with a house full of girls because the video games never really became and addiction.

But I have to say that I still don't like video games or "surfing" goes against my "do, do, do" nature, but maybe that's just me...and I find it equally weird when I hear married men with children talking about the video games they played last night.

...but I'm starting to rant...

arlene said...

I'm so surprised you didn't have a trampoline! You were a pretty athletic family, what with camping, hiking in the mountains, playing basketball...

That's one of Daniels biggest problems at work...all the guys who are in their 20's, 30's and 40's who spend all their free time off work playing video games, and all their free time at work talking about playing video games. What a waste of their lives! They don't even have any dreams of anything bigger than's just "get to the next level...get the upgrade".

Now, think of what great lives they'd have if they all spent their spare time jumping on a trampoline! LOL

Well, maybe if they'd had different childhoods, they'd want to have different lives now, and make different lives for their kids. Most of them are divorced.

Both Holly and Cheryl's girls had trampolines, and Tayler broke her leg, and Robin broke her arm...compound fracture...TWICE, surgery both times!

(But none of the girls are addicted to video games, and they're all in pretty good shape!)

Karyn/Mom said...

not a bad trade off. Besides, there is risk of life and limb involved in any sport.

Kathleen said...

How cool is that?!!!

Daniel said...

Awesome post, I love it!

arlene said...

Come on over and bounce Daniel! The boys would love to have you. (I think Josh wants to hear you play and pick up some tips!)

Nialle said...

Inisghtful, and funny as hell!

Your writing is getting sharp.

Some points:

1. How much in back pay do I owe the swear jar?

2. You're no spokeswoman for trampoline safety, missus pregnant belly flop.

3. NO Wii?!

4. Spontaneous social systems. Future essay topic!


arlene said...

1) Nialle, I'd say a thousand bucks should cover it. (Some were more like $5 words)

Oh, make that a thousand and TWO for your comment above.

2) Why does everyone keep bringing THAT up?! (Levi had some comments when he heard the story.)

3)Wii? What Wii?

4)Think "Lord of The Small, Cute Winged Insects".

Dad, Paka, Jim, Jimmy, Uncle Jim, Nephew, Sweety, Hubba Hubba said...

If we could only get the world leaders to play their games fairly like the innocent boys.