Keep-away

This summer I was watching my son and three of his friends playing an impromtu game of keep-away with a soccer ball while they were waiting for their turn at swim practice. There they were, four little eight year-olds running around in Speedos, kicking a soccer ball on the grass next to a swimming pool. They were weaving in and around moms sitting on towels and lawn chairs. They weaved around without a care in the world outside of their game. You could see the look in their eyes that nothing else mattered outside of their made-up game, and that was OK. They had laser-like focus on their game. They were being kids: pure and simple kids.

Kids, after all, when allowed to run unencumbered by our rules, figure out how to get along… in their own way. When we parents hover to closely and try to make sure that everything is fair, and no one’s feelings get hurt do nothing more than complicate the rules the children create by instinct. Think about a typical pre-school child tripping and falling on the playground. What is the first reaction unless the fall was truly horrific? They look around to see if anyone noticed.

Hide your gaze. Make sure your child does not know you saw the fall, and the child gets up, shrugs off the sting of the tan-bark, and continues on his or her way. As soon as the child knows you saw the fall, however, everything turns sour. Crying. Wailing. Inconsolable. Often the only thing to make it better is a Band-aid on an area of skin with nothing more than a light abrasion.

Now insert yourself into that impromptu game of keep-away, and at some point some child will be running to you, the adult, complaining how so-and-so is playing unfairly. Sit quietly behind a newspaper, and the boys will work out the rules, and any inevitable disagreements. The way they work it out is not always pretty, but that’s why we do look on, just in case the resolutions get out of hand.

Obviously I’m not advocating letting children run amok, but I’m just asking us, as parents, to consider more closely our boundaries for what constitutes